Tales of survival

Tales of survival

A mother tied a drop cord around relatives, as they wedged themselves in the closet of their home

ABACO, BAHAMAS — Mailin Sands, her husband, Grant, mother, and infant daughter, Candence, wedged themselves in the closet of their Man-O-War Cay home — a drop cord tied around each of them to secure them together — as Hurricane Dorian raged outside, collapsing portions of the structure.

“It really was unimaginable,” Sands recalled. “My child was strapped to me and tied on with a drop cord, then around Grant, mommy and Jean, who works with mommy; and Shiloh, my Shih Tzu, and we bunkered in a closet until we thought we could get to the basement outside.”

As dangerous hurricane-force winds battered the structure for hours, Sands said she was uncertain if her family would survive. Her husband and mother prayed in the small closet before they sprinted to the outside basement.

There, Sands sang to sleep her infant daughter, unable to process the danger her family was in.

She said at one point she thought of a scene from the movie, Titanic, in which a mother, cuddled her two children in the bed of their cabin, and sang them to sleep as seawater rushed into the small room, certain to drown them.

“I kind of thought ‘am I the mother who is singing to her kids before they go down on the Titanic’; you just didn’t know, you know,” she told Eyewitness News at Odyssey Aviation after being airlifted from Abaco.

“On the other hand, I felt peace too. I just felt like God would protect us and he did. We have our lives. Our house is not livable. My mum’s house is not livable, but we’re alive and we are very thankful to God for that.”

According to Sands, four set of neighbors — 17 in total — left their homes and sought refuge in her basement. Dorian ravaged the island between Sunday midday and Tuesday evening. When the family emerged after Dorian’s passage, they met debris where their home once stood.

Sands was among numerous Abaconians airlifted to New Providence.

Ricardo Thompson, another resident of Man-O-War Cay, said he knew the storm was going to be rough once it strengthened to a Category 4 with 150 mile-per-hour winds.

Dorian made landfall in Abaco as a Category 5 around midday Sunday, with sustained winds of 185 miles-per-hour, and over 200 miles per hour in gusts.

“It was rough,” said Thompson, who held his daughter-in-law Alex as he spoke.

“I knew that [when it got to] 150 it was going to be bad.

“I got one call every other day from my son. Each call made a difference.

“To see my grandson here [in New Providence] — my son protecting his house now — it feels good.

“… Was I scared? I said my prayer. God is going to do what he is going to do. Amen to that.”

Of the small cay in the Abacos, Thompson said it was “mashed up”.

Alex, who eyes were reddened, clung to her one-year-old son as she recalled the life and death
decisions the family was forced to make as Dorian breached their home.

She said as the home began to “come down on us”, they had to decide: stay and hope for the best or evacuate into the hurricane force winds and rushing flood waters in hopes of finding a safer place to hold up.

“It was scary, honestly,” she recalled.

“When the house is coming down on you and you have to escape in the middle of the storm, what can you do?

“Half of my house is gone. All of Abaco is finished. There is no more Abaco.”

When asked about her next steps with no home to return to, said she had not been able to process that far ahead.

She paused before saying, “We haven’t thought about that as yet. We have to think about it, but people in Abaco are already trying to build it back, so we’ll see.”

Some survivors who spoke to Eyewitness News, struggled to find the words to describe their ordeal and broke into tears.

There were many other who waited at the airport for hours, hoping to reunite with loved ones, who had not been heard from in days — not knowing who would arrive in New Providence. While few were rejoined with relatives, many others remained without confirmation that their family was safe.

The death toll from Hurricane Dorian has risen to 20, Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands confirmed. Last night, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis repeated that the figure will increase.