St. John, located in the Caribbean Sea, is the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands/Photo by Hannah J. Farrow
By Hannah J. Farrow, AliveTampaBay Correspondent
The hurricanes took away a lot of things—roofs of houses, car windows, taxi drivers’ passengers. It didn’t, however, take away from the beauty of the island or its people.
St. John, the US Virgin Islands has been a vacation destination for my family since before my birth, a home-away-from-home if you will. We rent a pick-up truck with bench seats in the bed, pile in the beach chairs and cooler, and take off one the left side of the road, through the mountainous, lush, tropical botany, with a “road beer” in hand.
We were anxious this year, gambling on the state of the island and questioning if vacationers were even wanted. I imagined locals rolling their eyes and shaking their fists as tourists with their money vacation on their destroyed land. We were even told time and time again by our travel agent not to expect the island to be how it used to be. My biggest fear was that everything I loved about St. John was gone.
To my pleasant surprise, I found that my family and I were welcomed with smiles and laughter as we reserved a table for 18 at various restaurants. What’s usually a pain to any waitress with a full section, with restaurant wait times over an hour long, was now a blessing to fill the empty seats.
We took a break from the relaxation of the pristine beaches and ventured on a hike called Ram’s Head Trail; only this hike was on the side of the island that took the hurricanes head on. I saw photos of stripped palm trees and heard stories of mudslides, leaving only my imagination to picture the state.
The beginning of the trail started off rocky, literally, and only indicated a similar three miles to go.
I was wrong.
The rough start turned into a calm bay where the water lightly lapped at the sandy beach. It continued on through the rocky waterside edge, up through cacti ridden bush, to what felt like the edge of the world. The clearest water rolled in waves, one after the other, crashing into the rocks below. The sun smiled down at us, and as I looked around, all of my fears of the island vanished.
I’ve always had respect for the island and its people, I’ve always felt welcomed, and I’ve always wanted to return. The houses are in repair and BBC electric works tirelessly to bring shining new wires to the island. I was devastated to hear how bad St. John was hit, but beyond relieved to see that its spirit wasn’t.
Michael Verdi and Hannah J. Farrow at St. John/Photo selfie by Hannah J. Farrow