My colleagues and the many elementary students I taught on Wednesday, September 6th probably didn’t realize the inner turmoil I was experiencing that day.

While to them I was moving through my daily motions as usual- I was truthfully spending my day in agony.

A lover and repeat visitor to both the United States and British Virgin Islands, I had been spending my last week unhealthily obsessing over the approaching hurricane set to strike these isolated islands on that fateful day.

With friends who live on the island of St. John (whom were currently in town on vacation and whom we were scheduled to have dinner with that evening), my heart was heavy with worry and fear for their home, their pets still on island, and of course and moreover, for all their friends and community still on island.

I spent every spare moment I had that day checking various Caribbean webcams I had found, checking for updates from every island business and group facebook page I had added in the last week, and watching facebook live feeds from those on island as the hurricane approached.

The updates and videos painted a picture of worsening conditions, but nothing could have prepared me for what began to come through after a somewhat “radio silent” time period between the hours of 1pm and 7pm.

When the eye wall of Irma descended upon the islands filtering through my mind’s eye.

Fast forward nearly two weeks, and the pictures of the islands I have come to love are truthfully still difficult to stomach.

Even more difficult and harrowing though, are the stories now coming to light.

Now that tourists and residents have had time to take boats to nearby Puerto Rico and St. Croix- where they have found refuge, flights to the mainland, and for many, the first chance at communication, their stories are surfacing.

Making the rounds, being shared, and blowing me away by the minute.

Stories like that of Lucy Keatts, a mother of two small children who weathered the storm in what many would have considered a hurricane-safe home on St. Thomas.

When hurricane-safe didn’t account for what Irma was bringing that day.

Lucy’s raw, emotional, and frightening account of those “radio silent” six hours will leave you speechless.

Below, you can read of her experience.

One in which we all hope to never find ourselves in, one in which we hope and pray to never occur again, and one which brings perspective, and somehow, hope.

We thank you for your account of the events of Wednesday, September 6th, Lucy, and keep you, your family, and your community of island residents in our constant thoughts and prayers.

Photos used with permission via Lucy Keatts

“One week since Cat 5+ Hurricane Irma hit our beautiful island of St Thomas. We watched, nauseated, as we felt the storm build up through that Wednesday morning but it still felt like the eye wall came upon us so suddenly. And so immensely. And so terrifyingly. Irmas’ eye wall was many things to me.

Irmas’ eye wall was a ferocious roar I could never have imagined possible

Irmas’ eye wall was watching the French doors on the side of our “safe” basement start to shake and buckle as we rushed the kids into the small bathroom and barricaded the door. 1.15pm

Irmas’ eye wall was listening to that lashing fury and feeling a fear for our children we never wanted to experience again. 1.45pm. We didn’t realize way worse was still to come.

Irma’s eye wall was hearing our dogs’ whine turn into a high pitched panicked almost scream as they too were filled with fear, tucked in their crates where we had barricaded them in as best we could

Irma’s eye wall was listening to the propane tanks being slammed against the ‘sheltered’ wall behind our bathroom bunker and crashing sounds upstairs (we didn’t know it was the our upstairs disappearing)

Irma’s eye wall was watching the sweet innocence of my 17mnth old doing the motions to incywincy spider on a tablet, as she couldn’t comprehend the beast right outside. 1.55pm

Irma’s eye wall was a sudden, powerful whoosh and the feeling that the inside of mh ears were being sucked out. That was the French doors being ripped off. 2pm

Irma’s eye wall was now in our shelter and she wanted everything in it

Irma’s eye wall was throwing my babies in the bathtub and laying with my arms and legs wrapped around them for 5 hours

Irma’s eye wall was peeking out to see my husband bracing, desperately trying to hold in the bathroom door and wall. First he watched the metal windows buckling and then snatched away and then the inside walls being peeled away and the metal frames of the walls being twisted and folded by this fury

Irma’s eye-wall was lying in the bath as wind pulled at the camping mat I clung to to cover my babies from endless debris flying around. The camping mat had been thrown at me as the storm demolished the closet behind my head. And it protected us

Irma’s eye wall was repeating “it’ll be over soon” over and over for two and a half hours to calm my kids but also, I realize, myself and at moments hearing the higher pitched terror in my voice as it felt like it would never be over. How was it not over? How could we possibly cling on much longer? I could feel the bathtub shaking

Irma’s eye wall was cold rain water starting to fill the bathtub. I couldn’t sit up or my children would be ripped from my arms, so I desperately tried to keep my baby’s head above the rising water. I shivered uncontrollably until my littles couldn’t help but pee themselves. It broke my heart as it warmed that water.

Irma’s eye wall was utter panic when the remaining wall started to fall in on top of us, but return to a stoic, anxious calm after husband’s reassurance it was the closet and not the cistern wall that was collapsing

“It’ll be over soon” “It’ll be over soon” “It has to be over soon”…..

Irma’s eye wall was finally moving on. around 5pm. But she was tricky, whirling back with a sudden vicious roar we could hear building and running at us and slamming debris around outside and still desperately trying to rip out the half wall that remained above our bathtub. Was she coming back around again? There’s no way we would make it

Irma’s eye wall was unbelievably huge relief as we could talk to each other again and believe that she really was dying down and we were going to survive. Finally. 7.30pm. The longest and most terror filled 5hours of my life that I would wish on no one

Irma’s eye wall was being pulled out of the rubble by incredible neighbors who welcomed us into their home and have become like family in just a few days

Irma’s eye wall was being so stunned and grateful to all be alive that when you look up after climbing out of the rubble you don’t care that the top floor of your house is gone. Roof, walls, everything. Your home- gone. But you are alive together

Irma’s eye wall was an incredible community coming together to help each other survive, move on and rebuild

We are good. We are lucky to have had friends take us off island until we find a new home and things settle down. But STT is home. We are conflicted and filled with guilt for leaving but it’s the right thing to do for our children right now.

Irma’s eye wall was absolutely devastating to my beautiful home St Thomas, bringing huge turmoil and hardship for so many. It will be many months before power is restored to most of the island. Forget about the piddly 10days people are worried about in Florida -and I mean no disrespect to those also devastated there-it’s awful anywhere-but US territories are often forgotten and recovery on an island territory is painfully slow. Water, fuel, basic food supplies are all out or running low.

STT needs help and support beyond what it’s very special people can give each other. 

Please consider donating to the VI Community Foundationhttp://www.cfvi.net or the St Thomas Family Resource Center -great organizations who will ensure funds go directly to help the people of this wonderful island.” 

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Check out our new Keepsake Companion Journal that pairs with our So God Made a Mother book!

Order Now
So God Made a Mother's Story Keepsake Journal

Ashley Kleisinger

Bio- Ashley Kleisinger is a mommy, elementary school teacher, and blogger from Northern Kentucky. When not lesson planning in the shower, chasing after her 5- and 8-year-old, or celebrity stalking on eight different forms of social media, you can find her penning her rants, ramblings, and exaggerations of the truth on her Facebook page Back Stories First.

It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Small dog with head hanging out car window, color photo

Our dog Carlos has slowed down considerably within the last few months. He’s always been outspoken and opinionated–a typical firstborn trait–and to hear him snoring most of the day and tolerating things he normally wouldn’t tolerate (i.e. being carried from place to place by my son, forklift-style) put me on notice that he’s in the fourth quarter. Carlos looks and acts like an Ewok from the Star Wars franchise. According to Wikipedia, Ewoks are clever, inquisitive, and inventive. Carlos checks all three boxes. As a puppy, we tried crate training, but it never took. It wasn’t for lack of trying....

Keep Reading

You’ve been Gone a Year, So Why Does It Feel Like Yesterday?

In: Grief, Loss
Old photo of mother hugging her young daughter, color photo

In February, you will have been gone a year. How is that right? It was just yesterday. I still remember the day we got the diagnosis. One I knew was coming but still prayed wasn’t true. I still remember promising you that everything was going to be okay, and knowing that it wasn’t. I still remember the first time I saw you and thought to myself, “The dementia is moving too fast.” It was just yesterday. I still feel your hand in mine as I sat next to you in the hospital bed. You were talking and humming along while...

Keep Reading

God Redeemed the Broken Parts of My Infertility Story

In: Faith, Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Two young children walking on a path near a pond, color photo

It was a Wednesday morning when I sat around a table with a group of mamas I had just recently met. My youngest daughter slept her morning nap in a carrier across my chest. Those of us in the group who held floppy babies swayed back and forth. The others had children in childcare or enrolled in preschool down the road. We were there to chat, learn, grow, and laugh. We were all mamas. But we were not all the same. I didn’t know one of the mom’s names, but I knew I wanted to get to know her because she...

Keep Reading

Growing Slowly around the Grief of Losing Your Mom

In: Grief, Loss
Sad woman sitting on couch with folded arms

Everyone has heard about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Society often assumes the stages of grief happen in order, but those who encounter grief know that’s not true. Undergoing grief can feel like riding a rollercoaster blindfolded—disorienting and chaotic. There are numerous ups, downs, and twists you wouldn’t anticipate. Grief is like an ocean. When waves come crashing, it feels like you’re being swept away. Regardless of their size, waves are always rough. Despite everything, you also get pushed forward to the shore after every wave. Sometimes, you may feel like you are drowning...

Keep Reading

The Shattering Grief of Suicide

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Sad person sitting in darkened hallway, black and white image

Navigating through my second Christmas without my dad, the weight of grief seemed even heavier this year. In fact, everything felt and looked different to me. As I unwrapped the ornaments and cards he gave me over the years, a tidal wave of madness and sadness engulfed me. I know many feel sadness and grieve during these times, but let me just say . . . suicide is a different type of grief. My vibrant, happy, physically fit dad committed suicide on April 30th, 2022. There, I said it. In the aftermath, a myriad of emotions consumed me. One perplexing...

Keep Reading

Dear Dad, Maybe You’re the Bird

In: Grief, Loss
Young girl sitting on father's lap, older color photo

Maybe you’re the bird. The one I see outside my door. The one who flies so low it seems you’re somehow weighted down. Like you’re carrying more than just yourself. Like you’re carrying a message. Just for me. Maybe you’re the rain. The sound I hear that reminds me so much of home. Of you. Of driving in your car as a little girl when you looked over and asked my opinion about everything. When you made someone so small feel so very big. RELATED: Dad Left a Legacy in Fried Green Tomatoes Maybe you’re the butterfly. The one I...

Keep Reading

I Hope You Never Know What it’s Like to Forget Who You Are

In: Grief, Living, Loss
Woman staring at camera, black-and-white photo

I write best when I’m passionate. It’s always been my release. But lately, I’ve struggled to write. I’ve struggled to find purpose in my words. It’s all been twisted and choppy, not a bit poetic or beautiful. These feelings are what the struggles of loss, parenting, work, and marriage push against. It’s finding yourself over and over again and trying to make sense of the senseless. It leaves you questioning most things and leaves you feeling broken with no idea how to put yourself or others back together. I hope you never know. I hope you never know what it’s...

Keep Reading

I Don’t Know How to Live Without My Sister, But I Must

In: Grief
Sisters smiling in posed color photo

I’ve spent a year of my life living in a haze. Holding my breath, afraid to exhale. Focusing on staying in this frozen moment where there is no reality. I pressed the pause button. Pumped the brakes. I’ll stay right here and wait for my life, life as I knew it, life as I loved it, to come back around. Where there is no future to mourn, thinking about the way it should have been and no torturous past to remember, recalling the horror of that day. The special occasions that will come are now outlined in sadness. Wait, she’s...

Keep Reading

6 Ways to Be a Friend to Someone Grieving

In: Friendship, Grief, Loss
Friends hugging

Grief can truly be such a lonely experience after you lose a loved one. The loneliness isn’t necessarily because you don’t have anyone around you. It’s because only you had your relationship with the person who died, and it’s hard to find anyone to replace that. I have first-hand experience. My mom died recently and unexpectedly at the age of 62 and I at the age of 34, and it single-handedly has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. However, having support from family and friends will help you navigate this difficult time. Without it, the loneliness...

Keep Reading

These Final Gifts from My Mom Are Hard to Let Go

In: Grief, Loss
Little girls boots with worn toes, color photo

My daughter wobbled toward me in silver, square-toed go-go boots, one heel dislodged and flopping against our hallway’s faux wood floor. On her opposite foot, a striped sock peaked curiously through the growing toe hole. “Mama,” she said. Her tiny voice raised another octave, “My shoe!” I sighed, then sat on the floor. Waves of grief washed over me as I contemplated what kind of glue might capably reconstruct the shoe’s sole. Elmer’s glue? Textile glue? Maybe Krazy Glue? I knew the boots should just go into the bin. And yet, they—along with a vibrant, overbearing cat dress that would...

Keep Reading