Tears flowed freely Tuesday (July 14) morning, as family members and friends relived that memory of losing loved ones to Hurricane Dorian back in September 2019, when the historic deadly storm hit Grand Bahama with winds up to 200 mph, and an unprecedented storm surge.
The survivors came together for the unveiling of a memorial cross in honor of their loved ones lost to Dorian.
The cross, erected by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), pays tribute to the 13 recovered victims and the 22 still missing from East Grand Bahama.
Mayloise Ramsey and sister Maydawn Swann lost their sibling, Dawnita Cooper, as well as their nephews, three-year-old twins, Adam and Aaron Cooper.
Ramsey described the event as 'one step' in the family’s healing process.
“This is a process of our healing. It is still a process that we are going through. You can never get through the loss of one person much less three, four, seven or even more.
“We are here today to commemorate them, as we continue in our healing process. We are grateful for this commemoration as it displays the love of the Grand Bahama community in helping to memorialize the lives of our loved ones.”
Noting that the monument is a beautiful reflection of faith, Ramsey said: “It is also very fitting. When you look at the cross you can see that the air is able to flow through it. It speaks of life, the beginning of life and renewal,” she said.
GBPA Chairman Sarah St. George explained the purpose of the symbolic monument at the foot of the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge.
“We have been through much in the past 10 months and in paying tribute to our Founding Fathers, we thought it fitting to honor and remember all those who were so cruelly taken from us by the most destructive hurricane on our island, in our time.
“The unveiling of this monument is to commemorate all those who tragically perished on Grand Bahama, in Hurricane Dorian, the lives lost, those we laid to rest and those still missing. We have all been deeply affected by the devastation and we have weathered many storms, but none in which so much human life was sacrificed,” said St. George.
During her remarks, St. George referred to another event which remembered the victims.
“In a way, as Cecil Thompson (moderator for the ceremony) mentioned, this follows from the Ecumenical Church Service that we held at the Jubilee Cathedral just before Christmas, with Rev. Dr. Lockhart (President, Grand Bahama Christian Council); Bishop Godfrey Williams, Cecil Thompson and Lady Henrietta (St. George).
“All of us wanted to create a lasting memorial, but there and with other distinguished representatives of the clergy, we all agreed that it should take the form of a cross. Yes, (it is) a symbol of pain and suffering, but also a symbol of faith, hope, love and most importantly, a symbol of eternal life.
“On behalf of the GBPA, I would like, again, to express our deep sorrow for all the families still mourning the loss of their loved ones and for those that are still displaced; still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives.
“Where there is rebuilding, we are seeing a new freshness return. In other words, signs of rebirth and resurrection,” she said.
Describing the monument prior to the unveiling, St. George stated:
“The cross behind me was designed and hand-crafted by artist Jacki Boss. (Boss also created our striking mural of the four relay Olympian gold medalists at the Settler’s Way roundabout.) It was set in place by Rodney Davermand of Jonaptle (Construction). We must thank them both.
“In this cross, we see the solid pillar of faith, balance and dignified strength. We also see in it, a gateway, an open interior to welcome the air and light inside itself.
“It is a lovely metaphor for strength and gentleness; for belief and openness and for resilience; not in holding back the forces of nature, but in allowing them to blow through us and leave us standing. We see the light on the horizon, to infinity.
“In the mural decoration, we can see our famously beautiful sea and sky in a mosaic of blues; a bright clear serene blue, with glimpses of a stormier serious facet, in the depth of the navy blue. The graduation of blues depicts the souls of the departed being carried by the hand of God from the sea, safely up to Heaven. And so, the light and the mosaic render this, not so much as a mausoleum, as a mirror to the future.
“Independence is a time of reflection, when we remember how far we have come, we find the will to go forward and it is also right that we should celebrate the many miracles of our survival; hundreds of lives saved, care and compassion, aid from our international friends far and wide.
“Why is the monument right here? Well, the earliest rescue efforts on jet skis were from these bridges, over the waterway. East of this bridge were those who were the most tragically hit; the cross is placed here so all who pass this way evermore would have paused for thought It stands small and humble, but proudly exposed to the elements, easily visible and accessible to everyone. That was the objective,” she pointed out.
St. George noted that because Hurricane Dorian mainly affected Grand Bahama and Abaco, residents sometimes felt isolated in the trauma.
“Now on top of this, we now share a burden with everyone else on the planet as we find ourselves in the middle of COVID-19 and at the mercy of this invisible virus. These last months have been unprecedented in the world as we know it, but we have not wavered and we will rise through this too.”
She went on to thank "the countless heroes who played an important role in risking their lives to saves others, many of whom were complete strangers; but however, demonstrated to the world the indelible unity Grand Bahamians share as a community.
“These heroes showed the world what it means to be part of our community; a true manifestation of love thy neighbor. CNN and the world couldn’t believe their eyes. The courage and spirit of these lion-hearted individuals, filled us all with pride. Again, I just want to say to them, ‘what you did will never be forgotten; thank you,’” said the GBPA Chairman.