People of St. Maarten,
Hurricane Maria, an extremely dangerous Category 5 storm, has crawled past our island, dumping a significant amount of rain and brushing us with tropical storm force winds that still keep whistling in our heads. But through it all God has been with us.
We, therefore, need to fall on our knees and thank Him for sparing us from the real wrath of Maria which has continued on its path of destruction towards the US Virgin Islands, particularly St. Croix, and the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Our thoughts and prayers go out to our brothers and sisters on those islands.
This certainly will go down as one of the worst hurricane seasons ever in the Caribbean. I can’t remember any time in recent memory when so many islands in our region have been so heavily devastated by such very powerful storms and we still have some ways to go before the season officially ends. Scientists will have to determine why this extraordinary intensification of hurricane activity is happening with unprecedented destruction spread across our entire Caribbean region. In the meantime, we have to continue with our recovery and rebuilding efforts, despite the interruptions of Jose and Maria.
These are very tough times for every one of us, but as hurricane-weary, as we have become, we are a resilient people. The hurricanes may have knocked our island down, but they can’t knock us out. We will rise again, like the proverbial Phoenix, and soar above the storms with wings of eagles. No Irma, no Maria, no super-storm is superior to our indomitable spirit. As has now become popular to say, we are St. Maarten strong. We will emerge from this better, smarter, stronger and more united.
It is that spirit of unity that I appeal to each and everyone of you to draw from as we march forward, propelled by our faith in God, our love for St. Maarten, and our firm belief that we will prevail in turning the rubble of destruction into the gem that our island has always been.
There will be those who will try to sow seeds of division and discord among us to further their own agenda. We must not allow them to succeed. There will be some, even among us, who will seek to exploit our mistakes to discredit our institutions and make it look as if we cannot handle this catastrophe. We should tell them to take a good look at our history of struggle. We have done it over and over again and came out on top. We will do so again this time by the grace of God.
I want to take this opportunity to once more thank all of you for the incredible work you have been doing so far. You are the real heroes in this unimaginable tragedy. Irma, packing hurricane winds of 200 miles per hour, was the most powerful storm in recorded history that ever hit the Caribbean. It struck St. Maarten directly. We must recognize the magnitude of this catastrophe in order for us to fashion an adequate response. That response is visible in the way you have been cleaning up your neighborhoods before Maria rudely interrupted your efforts. It is reflected in the peaceful and orderly manner you have been lining up for water and food and other essential supplies. It is seen in how fast some of our utilities have been restored in several parts of St. Maarten.
I am extremely proud of you and I am convinced more than ever before that when we come together as one united and proud St. Maarten people, there is nothing we can’t accomplish.
I want to also thank all our friends and partners within the Kingdom and beyond for their outpouring of support in this our time of need. We really appreciate your assistance, which we will continue to need and seek as we rebuild our country step by step, day by day, brick by brick.
This means obviously that there’s still a lot of work ahead of us. The Hurricane Maria curfew remains in effect until tomorrow morning at 6:00 am when people will be allowed back on the road and businesses allowed to reopen. But the regular curfew will kick in at 7:00 pm tomorrow evening, allowing businesses to open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm.
An initial assessment following the passage of Hurricane Maria indicates that we have had no additional damage to our critical infrastructure.
Thank God for that. However, we need all hands on deck to get our country back to where it belongs. So, let’s get to work, St. Maarten. God bless you and your family. God bless our beloved St. Maarten.