Staying Home

23 October, 2019

Daniel Tchetchik

Photographer Daniel Tchetchik joined IsraAID’s Emergency Response team in the Bahamas following Hurricane Dorian. Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas on September 1st 2019, devastating the island of Grand Bahama. 61 people died, with hundreds still missing. 13,000 homes were severely damaged or completely destroyed.

In the weeks afterward, we visited the rural community of High Rock, asking people why they chose to stay when everyone else left.

“After the water came we had to knock a hole in the roof. The water was eight foot high. We stayed in the roof for eight hours, till the water subsided. The water stooped just a few feet from us.
It was the four of us — me, my mom, my brother and one of my cousins — we had no food and a bit of water. It was late at night.

I am feeling hopeful — what’s happened happened — just hope tomorrow is a better day.
We stayed under the impression that the house was strong enough. This is my home, I didn’t want to leave before the storm and I don’t want to leave now.”

“We had two big storms. I survived the last two. So I didn’t see a reason to leave.

After I saw my front door blow off I opened the back door so to create circulation. That’s what saved the house. I was lucky enough to send my family down to Freeport before the storm.
I’ve lived here my whole life. I was born in New York City but lived here — I don’t know nothing about America though.

This happened because the community is bashing each other. The storm took some good and bad people and also left some good and bad people, but these conflicts within the community is not a good thing — this storm may be a form of punishment.

This is a local story but it’s also a global one — it can happen anywhere. As this affects the rich and the poor equally — I see this as an opportunity as well. This is a restart for all. I see a lot of good in that, for everyone. Its horrible tragedy we lost people but also a blessing in disguise.”

“It was rough. The house began to flood, it was 1:00 in the morning, the water came strong, my husband clung to a pole outside the house.

It was very dark out. My daughter and I got swept away — there was a bus in front of the yard, we clung to lines connected to the bus and I telling my daughter hold on we gonna be alright! The house door suddenly opened and we went — this isn’t our house I’m talking about — the moment we got in the door closed and bolted, Lord knows how. We just tried to keep our heads above the water.”

The Mackeys at their home. “You really see life flash before your eyes, but we believe.”
Elihu Mackey Sr. 49, Patrice Mackey 45, Jonathan 4, Elihu 9

“My family were at the home when the water started to rise, it was only two feet at the time, but it started to rise quickly, till the point the fridge starting floating. We used the fridge as a raft, stood up on it to get up in the manhole. We stayed in there the whole night. The kids were having a blast, they trusted us — they took it as an adventure! They loved it. We were praying as a family, we know we were covered and we were calm and road out the storm. We feel strong today, we lost everything but we thank God for life. Life is precious and we only lost things we can replace so we are all OK. You really see life flash before your eyes, but we believe. This happened because of nature. Just the order of things. There is a bigger plan. The support of the community has been tremendous from everyone.”

“We went on top of the kitchen cabinets and kept climbing higher and higher to escape the rising water but that didn’t help. Somehow we managed to run out the house at some point to reach a higher point at the house next door. We lost everything. It’s really affected us badly, we just bought all this new furniture and it’s all gone. We are rebuilding but its tough. I keep asking myself why did this happen? The only answer: human nature. We gonna push and trusting, keep pushing… we are coming out victorious. Hold your head up, I lost two sisters and two nephews but gotta keep pushing.”

Trevor outside his home. “It was me here alone, I sent my girlfriend and son away.”
“The wind picked up, the sea leveled off with the — I keep hearing a “wwwwoooom” sound, and I started praying, never prayed so much in my life. I have to change myself, it could only be God. This disaster — what nature did is simply shocking. It was me here alone, I sent my girlfriend and son away — praying I could see them again. Sometimes it gets in your mind and depresses you but overall I’m optimistic. I think technology draws us apart — this storm is to bring us together, everyone goes to the smartphone and we need to go back to basics. We need to bring love and kindness to our neighbors.”

“I had no place to go, all other places are lower, but next storm I’m not staying. I survived the storm fine, this is a high point so I was lucky. I lost my niece and nephew but I’m OK — it’s the circle of life here. I will rebuild this myself. I can do this. No reason for this storm — it is what it is — just wasn’t my time to go I guess. I lost one dog because I tied him him up and he drowned. The rest are here with me. I feel very bad that I made that mistake but also happy these guys survived.”

“I always feel safe at home, so I didn’t leave. We were on the third floor when the roof flew off, and the wind and water blew us 700 feet from here. We landed on pine trees and had to stay there for two days, basically the ocean was below us. I survived through my belief. I feel OK today, hopeful — things are going to change — there was a message in the storm. We need to go back to believing. We get too caught up on materialism. I first have to look at myself, as everyone looks at themselves as well. We need to serve one another, care for one another.”

IsraAID launched its mission in the Bahamas in September 2019, following the devastation of Hurricane Dorian. IsraAID’s emergency response efforts in the Bahamas have focused on providing protection support, safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, and relief distributions to affected communities.

IsraAID is an international, non-governmental humanitarian aid agency, based in Israel, supporting populations in crisis around the world. Since its founding in 2001, IsraAID has worked in more than 50 countries.

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