St. Martin. Or was it St. Maarten?
We were in a car, I remember, crossing the border from St. Martin to St. Maarten. Or was it the other way around?
“Wait. So, we’ve been on the French side, and now we’re going to the Dutch side? Do I need my passport?”
The year was 2001. We had been on a cruise, bouncing from one island to another for Lori and Chris’s wedding on Antigua. It was November, a mere three months after the 9/11 attacks, and our ship was practically empty. “Everyone” else, I guess, was afraid to travel. The trend that autumn was fear. Many had therefore cancelled their flights and stayed in their homes. Sure, the airports were stressful places, taking forever to get through security, and the smell of paranoia was in the air. The rest of the trip was a dream. We had the ship to ourselves, the islands to ourselves, and I could not have felt more safe.
We had one day on St. Martin. A handful of hours, really. For some reason, however, our time on St. Martin is stuck in my mind. It’s glued to my memory. I was 14 when we crossed that border, nervous that we would even be allowed. I had never crossed a border in a car before. I was scared that for some reason, some big event would happen. That they would check our passports, that customs officers would yell and intimidate us. They didn’t, of course. We just drove across, on to the Dutch side of St. Maarten.
I thought of this event as I learned more about impending Irma, and how she threatened to tear apart many Caribbean islands. I thought of these vivid memories as Irma continued to destroy 95% of St. Martin. The devastation as I saw it on the New York Times has led to two dreams subsequent to watching the video for the first time. I cannot even begin to imagine the destruction done, and while other states get so much attention, I wonder how the Caribbean is doing in its recovery efforts, let alone what new dangers lie ahead. The hurricane season is, after all, just getting started.
For all my worries, however, I know I am not alone in reminiscing about a place adventurers the world over find solace and call home. White sandy beaches to this day remind me of St. Martin, of the Caribbean, of a carefree youth. These islands will always hold precious family memories.
While many of these islands–St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Maarten…don’t have power, supples, water, let alone a roof over their heads–I’m confident this is an opportunity in disguise. An opportunity to draw attention to their island, their way of life, and maybe inspire a new generation of vagabonds.