In a matter of hours on September 5th, 2003, the Bermuda landscape was changed forever by Hurricane Fabian, the worst storm to hit our island in 50 years. Tragically, there were four lives lost and indeed many more lives have been dramatically altered. Some of us are still coping with lost or damaged homes while thousands were without power for weeks.
It was a storm that few will forget and an event that brought out the best of Bermuda’s people. The following “Thoughts on Fabian” is a compilation of letters and images from our readers in the aftermath of the storm.
“In the wake of the Hurricane, my good friend from Boston who owns a house here, called to check in with me. Knowing that a friend was flying in as a pilot, she asked me if he could pick up a couple of tarps for her house. I called my pilot friend, Pete Schindel who agreed to bring in the tarps and then we began to think about the fact that he was coming in on an empty Corporate Jet. “How many tarps can you fit in your plane?” I asked. We did some fast phone calls to the Bermuda Emergency Measures Organization and Pete called his employers. I got a shopping list of generators, D cell batteries, tarps and rope. With only 1 hour to get to his plane, Pete set off for Home Depot. Back in Bermuda, from our kitchen with no electricity and very dubious phone service, I called Home Depot and ordered all the items on the shopping list. Just about an hour later, Pete and his crew packed up the plane with all the items and took off for Bermuda. The plane was met in Bermuda by the regiment and the items were donated to the EMO by Net Jets and the XL Foundation. It was a very exciting experience to know we had used our initiative and were a help to Bermuda.” – Sonia Whayman
“Hurricane Fabian was a great challenge to the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) and to the island as a whole. It also presented us with an opportunity to show the best we had to offer. I’m proud to say that the BHB has shown that, even in the face of adversity, through preparation, sheer hard work and dedication of our staff, we came together as a strong team to keep our patients safe and comfortable. I’m equally proud to say the same for the rest of the island: the community has pulled together and worked hard to help get the island back to some level of normalcy within days of the event.” – Jonathan Brewin, Chairman of the Bermuda Hospitals Board
“My husband David Roque came home from work Thursday afternoon to board up the house and secure his boat to prepare for Hurricane Fabian. We live about twenty five feet from the waters edge near the ocean on Cove Valley Road, St. David’s. After doing our home, he secured the neighbour’s house too.
“Friday came and Fabian was upon us. The waves were slamming the house. It was very frightening. The doors and windows were shaking so fiercely and the roof was creaking so loudly. Objects were hitting the house and crashing on the roof. (We later found out it was our neighbour’s roof from the top of the hill. He lost everything.) During the event, the windows and doors blew in and David took the doors off of our clothes closets and jammed them in front so the glass would not fly in the air and harm us. There was so much water at times that we could not see our neighbours houses.
“Early Saturday morning, David hopped on his bike to go check his boat. He found the embankment in front of our house had washed away up the road. He put a “Do not cross banner” in front of it to keep people from falling overboard. On his return from finding his boat safe in the water, he said there were a lot of trees down and blocking the roads. He went into his garage and pulled out his chainsaw. He told us he would see us a little later; he was going to clear the streets from the fallen trees so emergency vehicles could pass through. He did this all the way out to the St. David’s entrance. When he returned from the tree chopping there was more work to be done, roofs to be covered. He went back into his garage and pulled out ten tarpaulins and continued to work covering roofs. He was going all day helping people.
“David’s family would like to say that he has always been our hero and Good Samaritan. Not just in times like this, but all year through. We love him and are very proud of him.” – Heather Roque and daughters Heidi and Holly
“With the Bermuda Emergency Radio Station down, cell phones void and electrical power extinguished, Bermudians were abandoned of outside communications… that is with the exception of the standard, old fashioned telephone. During the height of the storm while we feared for our lives – as telephone poles crashed, trees snapped and the windows facing south looked ready to explode – we received three phone calls. One from England and two from Canada. Our friends abroad let us know what was happening via CNN, their local news and the internet. We learned of the extensive damage to Bermuda and the position of this wild and windy killer. People overseas knew more about what was happening, as it was happening, than we did. Guess it runs true to the tradition of Bermuda gossip, ‘someone else is always the first to know.'” – Mrs. R. Anderson, JP
“I would like to commend the individual or individuals who established the building code for Bermuda. I am so grateful that, as far as I know, no one was physically hurt or killed while waiting out the storm in their homes or designated buildings. I would also like to thank the men and women out in the field who work for BELCO, W&E and BTC, doing not-so-pleasant jobs in the heat and rain around the clock to set things right for us.” – Tina Trousdell
“My hero is my wife, the Good Samaritan. We ventured into town on Sunday morning, unshowered and still powerless, to see how the CellularOne stores and offices weathered the storm. While I was running around the offices, my wife and kids helped themselves to some cold PureWater from the water cooler. On the way out of town, we were listening to 100.1 on the radio and we heard numerous pleas for drinking water. Off the top of her head, my wife said: “Why don’t we take those extra, and full, water jugs in your office and drop them off to the people who need them?” I didn’t give it much thought at the time, as my concerns were the trees I had to clear from our yard and a roof, which was partially non-existent. Nevertheless, we headed back into town and loaded as many jugs into the back of our little Subaru Vivio as possible and we headed to the EMO to drop them off. We don’t know who in the end received them but we know someone’s prayers were answered. I am proud of my wife for thinking of someone else at a time when we had very little ourselves.” – John Narraway
“I would like to thank our Guardian Angels, Eric and Judy Clee in Jennings Land who scooped us up on the Sunday following Fabian, and pretty much every day after that, bathed and fed my two girls (one aged 5 years old and the other just 4 months old) happily handled load after load of washing, cooked us dinner and helped keep everything in perspective. Also Ray Beaulne, GM of Universal Electric, who spent the best part of the day after the storm up on our roof securing tarpaulins. We nearly lost our sanity, but we gained a new perspective on the inherent goodness of the human soul and were reminded just how fortunate we are to have such dear friends.” – Glyn Hoskins-Turner
“Thank you to the BELCO crew working at 11:00 p.m. last night in my neighbourhood in rain so hard I wouldn’t feel safe driving in it. In particular, the guy at the top of the pole who just kept on working, never even climbed down, and the guys who stayed in place with the torches trained on him to give him light. Amazing! Thanks also to our neighbour, Jane Kline, for ferrying tea and coffee to all her neighbours the morning after the storm because she had a gas stove. The same neighbour bringing bottles of water to a gardening company’s cleanup crew. And to my neighbour, James Guishard, struggling with his own house problems, and finding the time to help me get a tarp on my roof.” – Rory Gorman
For information regarding how to prepare for an impending storm, contact BF&M.
Read more from our Hurricane Season 2023 series, HERE!