Becky Ward will be home on St. John for Thanksgiving, but it’s a homecoming tinged with heartache. Though she, her partner, Patrick Rooney, and their two-year-old daughter, Hazel, are returning, Patrick’s 10-year-old son, Jack, is staying behind in Virginia where he’s now living with his Mom and grandparents, and enrolled in a new school.
“We are both really happy to go home on Tuesday, but we’re really sad to be leaving a part of our family behind,” says Ward. Jack’s Mom, she says, lost her home, her car, and her job in the hurricanes.
“For her, coming home is not an option, and it’s totally understandable but it’s hard.
“After going through something like this, you really realize what’s important and it’s your family. And here we are, having to start over not having a complete family.”
More than two months after the one-two punch of Irma and Maria, St. John and its residents are in transition.
Since evacuating after Irma, Ward and her daughter have bounced all over. First Virginia with Jack’s mom, then North Carolina with her sister, then Oklahoma with her mother, then back to North Carolina.
“Nothing has solidified for us here,” she says. “Decisions on where we’re living and what we’re doing have changed 10 times in 10 weeks.”
The island itself is changing daily and is a study in contrasts. Flowers are blooming and everywhere you look there’s green, growing up and around piles of trash and debris that used to be somebody’s home. The lights are on in parts of Cruz Bay and power is making its way up the hills, but everyone in Coral Bay is still in the dark. The beach at Hawksnest is officially open, but Maho is unrecognizable. And while some parts of the island feel almost normal, others, especially in Coral Bay and the East End, still look like the epicenter of a Category 5 storm.