Out of two Bermudas, we are one

  • Apocalypse now: this image by Unicef shows the scale of the damage caused by Hurricane Dorian in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island
  • Asked and answered: the Hamilton Seventh-day Adventist Church hall is awash with donations to provide relief to the Bahamas, as Bermuda rallied manfully to the call to raise 2,000 tonnes of supplies (Photograph courtesy of Wayne Caines’s Facebook page)

In church halls up and down the country yesterday, prayers were said for our brothers and sisters in the Bahamas.

Hurricane Dorian, the joint strongest Atlantic storm ever to hit land with sustained winds of 185mph, has left in its wake a trail of destruction and death that will live in the memory for decades.

The images are truly horrific, more so when you realise upon further inspection that those are actually limbs protruding from the rubble and bodies floating in the waters where roads and neighbourhoods had been.

Pure and utter devastation.

The final numbers will not be known for some time, but with each day that authorities attempt to make sense of this disaster, the sheer magnitude will be revealed in costs that will run into billions of dollars and a death toll that surely will rise into the hundreds.

It is at times such as these that Bermuda shows its true colours, its humanity.

It was only a week ago that we were inundated with debate over two parades — the historic first Pride parade and the 38th annual Labour Day Parade — reaffirming a persistent racial divide that shows no signs of abating.

But give us a disaster, a cause to rally behind whether near or far, and Bermuda answers the call.

We cannot agree that the country needs more residents, and their foreign capital, to grow the economy and increase business confidence.

We cannot agree that our bloated Civil Service needs to be reduced by as much as 50 per cent.

We cannot agree that the public education of our children needs to be taken out of the hands of government.

We cannot agree that every citizen must drive for change if we are to get out of the rut of losing ten lives a year on our tiny roads.

We cannot agree that consenting adults should be free to love who they wish, whether or not they are of the same sex.

We cannot agree that large-scale sporting and cultural events that bring untold exposure should grace our island.

Most, if not all of this comes down to one thing: race, race, race.

But give us a disaster, and we rally — showing a unity and sense of purpose that lends apt perspective and refutes any such theory that blacks and whites, and Bermudians and expatriates cannot live together, work together, play together, love together and thrive together.

If all one knew about Bermudians is what divides us — and we have only scratched the surface here, for the list goes on — the fulsome reaction to the tragedy of the Bahamas could be regarded as miraculous.

But there is no miracle in what has been achieved this weekend, We’ve been here before — for ourselves and for others. Yet the visual evidence of a rapid response in others’ time of need never gets boring.

Simone Smith-Bean, the wife of former Progressive Labour Party leader Marc Bean, Wayne Caines, the Minister of National Security, and his ministry deserve every plaudit for the speed at which they have mobilised the relief effort.

This was no mean feat, nothing to be taken for granted.

Try dropping 2,000 tonnes of waste at Pembroke Dump, with all the grief to come from residents as far away as Devonshire to the east and Paget to the west depending on prevailing winds, and you can appreciate the enormity of what has been accomplished. And what the HMS Protector will be heading off to sea with in our name to assist our Caribbean brothers and sisters.

This is us at our best. Caring for those who are less well off. Reminding ourselves of our humanity.

For all the talk of “two Bermudas” — and rightfully so — in this space, we are one.

Our efforts and those from farther afield will not bring back the dead. And Abaco, the worst-hit on the island chain by the fiercest and most slowly moving of hurricanes, may never be the same.

We prayed yesterday in our churches and we shall continue in prayer today that the Bahamas, her residents and those affected in the wider diaspora can find peace from this cruel passage of time:

Holy One, you are our comfort and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis or chaos

Surround us now with your grace and peace through storm or earthquake, fire or flood

By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation

Through Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer