A familiar voice broke through the static on the handheld radio; I listened closely as a numbing statement shocked me with its surreal quietude. “The house is gone. We’re in the cellar with water up to our chests and rising. I love you guys.”
With the fall of my senior year starting, I was enthused about a packed schedule of preparation, college entrance exams and applications to colleges and universities. It was a good plan, with just one more commitment of a ten day trip before the full launch. The trip culminates a decision in 2016 for my family and I to go into full-time Christian missions on a sailing catamaran. It took us the better part of a year to find S/V Faith on which we cruised throughout the Bahamas delivering Bibles and school supplies to needy local communities and churches. My daily boat regimen over the last two years consisted of swimming, trimming sails, spearfishing, and exploring the remote family islands around the Bahamas, whilst pursuing my homeschool curriculum.
We left Fort Lauderdale, Florida and sailed Faith, our humble and sturdy catamaran, to Abaco delivering another load. Our planned crossing time increased from an uneventful two days to an uncomfortable five days due to engine malfunctions and uncooperative weather. We soon found ourselves unavoidably in the path of Dorian, taking refuge on Man-O-War Cay from the strongest Atlantic hurricane to ever make landfall.
As the monster storm began, I watched the ceiling shudder while the intruding water rose at my feet. I drew in closer to my family. The wind and fear continued to grow, and so did my prayers. A violent crash, louder than the others, captured our attention, then light peeked under the door. I leapt to the door, forcing it open to reveal the top floor of the home had been ripped away, my racing mind wondered if we were next.
In a flash, a CAT 5+ gust tore plywood fastened firmly to a window and I caught my first glimpse of the surrounding destruction. The home across the street was gone; only a foundation remained. It was now a matter of time before this house was also destroyed and we didn't want to be inside. Adrenaline rushed through my veins as I bolted down the street to a concrete school building that still had a roof. With debris flying through the driving rain I crested the hill—normally a scene of beauty and tranquility that takes my breath away—and I was left in utter disbelief. The crystal blue harbor where I learned to drive a boat, the sunny basketball court by the palms where I spent countless nights playing ball with new friends, and the ice cream shop on the corner where our weekly family nights took place...I couldn’t recognize any of it. Boats were tossed like bath toys, the marina where we tied Faith, completely underwater; homes and yachts vanishing without a trace. What shook me the most, by far, was no sign of Faith. I stood in shock while the world spun around me in silent disregard. “This isn’t really happening” I thought. My dad grabbed me by the hand and pulled me away from the nightmare.
Severe uncertainty throughout the evacuation chaos triggered periods of intense adjustment. With only days to go before my first exam my family was choppered off a remote island and my mind felt like it was bleeding while it processed the raw experience I had survived. As my home sank in a foreign country, simple living arrangements became profound obstacles. An unimaginable loss became my reality, burdening me with dread. Rediscovering an acute focus on my goals was the only way through. And through it all, I found true confidence in the enduring voice that still remains constant.
“I love you guys.”