By J.A. Gooch
Just a few weeks ago, the great state of Texas experienced one of the most devastating natural disasters the United States has ever endured. Harvey, the first major hurricane to grace mainland U.S.A. in 12 years, tore through the eastern portion of the state, raining down over 60 inches of torrential floods, complete with 130 mph winds. As a result of the storm’s ruthlessness, more than 30,000 Texans are still displaced, many of which have lost their homes, pets, and even loved ones. And just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, there was Irma.
Within the matter of a week, Mother Nature unleashed yet another monster system in the Atlantic, the strongest, in fact, since Hurricane Dean in 2007. Heading straight for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Irma exhibited no discrimination as she ravaged the Caribbean. For Gay Travel, despite the majority of us residing in the continental U.S., Irma’s wrath hit closer to home than originally anticipated. Two of the islands struck hardest by Irma, St. John and St. Thomas, are home to a number of Gay Travel partners, all of which we care very deeply about. Shattering homes, businesses, schools, etc. and surrendering them to the wind, the Category 5 storm left the two islands, amongst others, completely unrecognizable. In fact, countless inhabitants have equated the calm after the storm to being on another planet. There, people are still without electricity, running water, food, and cell phone service. And as if that is not enough, the citizens of St. John are experiencing a more serious crisis; the island’s only hospital has suffered a “catastrophic failure” and is unable to fully function to meet the emergency needs of so many people. Now, after receiving yet another blow from Hurricane Maria, which pummeled the last of the US Virgin Islands, St. Croix, and our friends in Puerto Rico, this little corner of the world is in need of real help; here, the pain is real.
As is true with any natural disaster, especially those of Harvey and Irma’s magnitude, we are left to question the reasons why such tragedy occurs, but alas, we do so in vain. Other than being just a result of nature’s spontaneity, there is really no explanation for events like these (As I said before, the storms showed no discrimination.). However, as an attempt to make sense of it all, we should think in terms of what good could possibly come from these dark times. While we may flounder around in search of an explanation for the happenings of the past several weeks, it is crucial we recognize the opportunity this devastation has presented us. On a personal note, and for the lack of a better conclusion, I’ve often thought that the universe, perhaps, allows bad things to happen so that we human beings recognize our need for one another. I mean, just look at Texas! As you may have seen in the news, thousands of volunteers from both inside and outside the country have banded together to clothe, feed, rescue, heal, and rebuild. But while this is true for the Lone Star State, the Virgin Islands are continuing to suffer in silence, as most of Irma’s media coverage has focused on how the storm affected Florida. True, Florida received a smack, but its damage is incomparable to that of the Islands. The reality is that they desperately need our help. So what do we do? We travel.
In addition to sending love, warm thoughts, prayers and making monetary donations to various charities and funds specifically designated for the relief in the Virgin Islands, we must do more. While you may not be able to drop everything, and pop off to the Caribbean right away, you will—at some point in the future—plan a vacation. And although you may be tempted to steer clear of the Islands for some time, the truth of the matter is they NEED you! Because their economy is largely dependent on tourism, in order to regain the life that once pulsed through their sandy veins, it is essential that travelers brave the skies and skim the seas. Sure, it may be a good while before hotels and resorts have had had the chance to recover (We’ve yet to hear from all our partners in the Virgin Islands.), but as soon as they do, please—please set sail and spread your wings. The future of these beautifully vibrant places depends on you.
As for Gay Travel, we will meet you there.
To all of our partners in St. John, St. Thomas, and St. Croix we are here for you and are keeping you close to our hearts. We are in this together.