NASSAU, BAHAMAS – The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday unveiled its National Heros social media campaign honoring three Bahamians for their courageous efforts during the passage of Hurricane Dorian.
Under the theme, “There’s a hero in all of us”, the OPM recounted the experiences of Brent Lowe, and responders Michael Gibson, and Allaya Hagigal.
Lowe, who is visually impaired, saved the life of his disabled son as the monster storm beat his home in Murphy Town, Abaco.
“…The house was just vibrating, humming, the whole house,” said Lowe.
Lowe said he heard a violent banging on the door, and when he opened it he saw his sister-in-law and several of his neighbors begging him to let them in – their roofs had blown off.
It wasn’t long after Lowe opened his home that his own roof started lifting and part of it blew off.
He said water started flowing into the house and they knew they had to evacuate to another building.
Lowe’s 24-year-old son was born with Cerebral Palsy and is unable to walk or talk.
“I had to pick him up, put him on my shoulder to evacuate the house,” Lowe said.
“And when I step on my front porch, the water was to my chin, deep.
“He was terrified and in fact he was heavy…and he wouldn’t keep still on my shoulder because the water was wetting him and the breeze was blowing and he was scared.
“He would get up and twist and when he twisted because he was so heavy, I was scared I was going to drop him and lose him.
“I wasn’t going to leave my son there. I just felt like I did what I had to do.”
Lowe said the whole time he was blindly walking through the water bumping into things, his only thought was whether he was going to make it.
He said the three to four minute walk to his neighbor’s home felt like it lasted forever.
“I went through Floyd, I went through Jeanne, I went through Francis, but they were nothing compared to this,” Lowe said.
The second hero, Gibson, is a Royal Bahamas Defence Force officer who was stationed on the island days before the storm hit with a team of marines.
“Actually, before the storm hit, the water was already to people’s houses and the storms was still miles away,” Gibson said.
“At that point I knew that this was going to be something serious.”
Gibson said he and others took cover in a wooden building which served as the command center.
“I was at the point concerned if this building would actually hold up and, in my mind, I was trying to run contingency plans in case this building did not hold up,” he said.
“How are we going to get out of here? Where are we going to go? And how we are going to get there?”
Gibson said his driving force was his love for his children.
The officers could not leave the command center due to the severity of the storm; however, when the storm started to break, people came in the masses seeking help.
Gibson recalled two young men rushing to the building asking for help for their weakened grandmother, who was trapped in a flooded home.
He said he had to swim to get to the house.
“When I got to the house and I realized how bad it was, the water was already to the roof and everything inside the house was floating,” Gibson said.
“So I had to go in there to get her and when it was time to actually get her out of the building, you had to take her underwater to get her out of the door and then we had to swim her back to the jeep.”
Gibson urged Bahamians to heed the warnings given before hurricanes.
“And for the people who are still in Abaco, I just want y’all to keep hope,” he added.
“We as a country are trying our best to get things back together. It’s going to take a while but I know Abaco will be rebuilt and will be restored back to its full strength.”
Twenty-year-old Hagigal was the third hero highlighted by the OPM.
Despite being miles away from the storm, Hagigal sprang into action via social media to help save the lives of Grand Bahama residents trapped in their homes during the storm.
“I didn’t realize how powerful the storm would be or what kind of affect it would have on the country until the videos started coming in of the storm surges, 15 to 20 feet, hitting these people’s window, families’ windows, the second story windows of their homes,” she said.
“It was horrifying.”
After she saw on social media that her friend was stuck in his home with his family in Freeport, Hagigal said she quickly sprung into action.
She called the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), which directed her to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force base and Seaman Gibson.
The information she provided led to her friend’s rescue, and Hagigal’s mom suggested she try to help other people calling out for rescue.
She then sent out a tweet to her followers urging those who needed rescue to send their name number and addresses so that they can be forwarded to marine officers and rescue operations on the ground.
The tweet went viral.
“Within minutes I got around 60 or so addresses for families; and we’re talking seven to 20 people in a home who needed assistance immediately,” Hagigal said.
“…Even my mom scoured her social media, which she does not use to get the addresses and send them to me so that I can relay them.”
She credited the use of social media as the major contributor to those rescues.
“You know the rescue portion might be over, but these people have lost everything,” Hagigal urged.
“Food water shelter, we still need to rebuild the islands, and some people are still in their homes and require assistance and so anything, anything at all, even if it’s just monetary.”
Hurricane Dorian pounded on Grand Bahama and the Abacos for three days, leaving thousands of Bahamians displaced and homeless.
The official death count stands at 61, however, authorities have said that that number is expected to rise.