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Stronger | Better | Faster

Lessons from an old foe.

I remember it like it happened yesterday. The terrible devastation and complete destruction the island of Grenada after enduring a direct blow from Category 4 Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

I still remember the surreal feeling waking up the next morning after a night of little sleep. That morning as I left my house and walked for what turned out to be almost 5 miles to check on friends. So many people were on the streets and I still remember the almost trance-like state we were all in. It was as if nothing was real; nothing was left; nothing could be said and time meant nothing.

Grenada experienced total devastation with over 90 percent of the housing stock being destroyed or badly damaged. We were living without roofs; living without electricity, running water and the comforts that we had become so used to were gone. I remember the long, long nights not caused by a lock down; but by the early darkness that comes when there is no electricity. For most people the situation was as follows:

  • No Electricity; internet, or anything else which depended on electric power ...not even a fan for the hot summer nights.

  • Very little phone service, as there was very little access to charging stations for mobiles and landlines at the time were badly damaged by the high winds

  • No reliable running water

  • No proper shelter, as most had very leaky roofs or none at all

  • No access to reliable supermarket service; or any other services designed to make our lives easier

  • No solution to the influx of mosquitoes. They seemed to be the only ones thriving in the situation which we were all facing.

We literally felt like we were cut off from the rest of the world.

YET! We made it out and we survived. Hurricane Ivan, this terrible Category 4 Hurricane, which came uninvited into our lives and remained a feature in everything we did for many years, seems now a distant and faded memory.

What has not faded however are the lessons learnt from Ivan. Lessons which we should take comfort in refreshing our memory with today

Lesson 1.

We are not immune from Tragedy. Tragedy and terrible situations will happen. It is not what happens to you but in many cases how you deal with it.

Many of us now feel like this is an almost surreal situation and some are still even in denial that this COVID 19 crisis is in fact a global catastrophe.

Sorry to break the news to you but it is an absolute disaster and we are all living it. Things may not get better soon, in fact they may get worse. So what’s important right now is finding ways to cope, adapt and innovate just as we did with the passing of Ivan.

Lesson 2.

Pick the low hanging fruit! One of my best friends has a saying “when you are happy enjoy yourself.” Even in the worst crisis there will be happy moments. Enjoy these moments and relish them. Accomplish things you can accomplish and please don’t focus on getting back to normal yet.

After the hurricane I can remember how we celebrated getting water back; getting the roof covered so it didn’t leak; getting a new replenishment of food and most of all getting electricity. I can still remember how excited I was to have a glass of ice cold water. Ice was as precious then as anything else!

In this pandemic the experts say getting back to normal will be more like turning a dial slowly rather than flipping a switch. We will need to focus on each of the positives as they come.

We know a lot more about this than we did two months ago.

We know social distancing is working to slow the virus.

And we know that a tremendous amount of work is being done at the moment on vaccines and therapeutics. Let's take some comfort in these small achievements.

Lesson 3.

Disasters aren’t planned, they happen when we least expect it. Just after we had achieved about 85% recovery from Hurricane Ivan with most of our infrastructure, homes and businesses rebuilt and reopened, Hurricane Emily hit the following year in 2005, then came the 2008 financial collapse of Wall Street, this collapse short circuited many projects and led to a severe decline in economic activity for our island. It took nearly 13 years after Hurricane Ivan for our tourism numbers to reach pre Hurricane Ivan levels.

Therefore although we are in a hurry to be back to normal, remember this, other tragedies will follow. In fact, we are about to go into the Atlantic Hurricane Season. Learn the lessons from our old Foe Ivan, the impact of COVID 19 may be magnified by other tragedies but we will overcome it. We got stronger then and we are strengthened now.

Lesson 4.

All HEROES don’t wear capes! During Hurricane Ivan a number of unexpected heroes emerged. Ordinary people with good hearts, good intentions and a commitment to survive and see others survive as well. This heroic spirit is ingrained in our humanity and is already emerging during the COVID 19 pandemic. There will be people who unexpectedly influence our lives for good. Whether it is the supermarket worker; the helpful police officer or the orderly at hospital. Good people will come into our lives when we most need them. Relish that!

Lesson 5.

Look after yourself, especially your physical and mental health. In Ivan the dramatic change from a life filled with comforts and norms to a dramatically different life happened in a few hours. We all went into our homes to shelter from about 4pm and by the next morning life as we knew it had been forever changed. The changes we’re experiencing with COVID 19 are not as immediate but it is as serious or more serious.

Therefore we all need to realize in these dramatic situations that we have to look after ourselves. Yes we are all on lockdown and it's tough but lock down should not stop us from

  1. Checking our blood pressure

  2. Checking in with our doctor especially those who have chronic diseases

  3. Praying, meditating and living in the present...not worrying about a situation we cannot control

  4. Getting some regular exercise

  5. Checking in with our closest friends and family especially the ones who depend on us.


The message here is clear. Protecting ourselves from COVID 19 is a scenario we never predicted we would be in. Our social lives are on hold, businesses are forced to change the way they operate and some may not survive, new regulations govern the way we do even the most basic tasks but we have been through tough situations before and triumphed. We will prevail this time and we will be better than we were before.

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