In the few weeks since monstrous category 5 Hurricane Dorian sacked two of the Bahamas’ 700 islands, most news has centered on the corporations and celebrities who have donated to relief efforts.
Well, that and the American politicians like Donald Trump and Marco Rubio who have used the tragedy to push immigration and anti-China agendas.
As the Bahamian people struggle to find missing loved ones and rebuild their lives, a few stories are coming about local people helping each other during the crisis.
One such story is about Wayne and Marsha Stubbs, who live in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. The Nassau Guardian recently reported that this couple turned their two-bedroom home into an emergency shelter for 128 of their neighbours!
Their unexpected mission of mercy began when the Maurice Moore Primary School became one of 12 shelters on the island to sustain damage from the punishing hurricane. By 4 p.m. on the second day of the hurricane, local news reported that people now needed to be rescued from the shelter.
One Twitter user wrote:
the Maurice Moore Primary school in Grand Bahama is a shelter but kids literally have to be on top of the shoulders of adults so that they won’t be submerged in the water, dear Lord pleaseee cover these people— Maybe: Aby (@sincerelyaby) September 2, 2019
The Stubbs family home was located across the street from the school. They had contemplated evacuating due to the enormous storm surge, but Mrs. Stubbs had a disability that made the prospect of leaving very difficult.
So they were home when the first two people showed up. Soon, a steady stream of adults and children flowed through their door. One man showed up in a black windbreaker, which he had used to protect his five-day-old baby girl from the elements outside.
The community of evacuees inside the Stubbs’ home worked together to keep her mother hydrated so she could continue to produce breastmilk. They also helped the new parents name the baby – they chose Zoe, meaning “life.”
Others who found shelter in the small home included five blind persons, including one who suffered from dementia and had to be restrained to keep him from running out into the hurricane.
A police officer showed up at the Stubbs’ residence near the end of their ordeal and counted 130 people, including Wayne and Marsha. They even sheltered and fed one of the evacuees’ pets.
“In my bed there were literally seven persons, three people on the floor, two on the other side, and in one of the rooms we have a double bed with a single bed and that had 10 babies and their parents in that room,” Marsha told the Guardian.
Members of the group took turns sitting and standing, looked after each other, and sang hymns to keep their spirits lifted during their time together. Like a story out of the Bible, the hundred-plus people survived on a small supply of crackers, tuna, corned beef, cheese and cupcakes.
All the while, her unexpected shelter was itself being threatened with flooding. “It was a lake out here,” she explained. “The rain came and the water came right to the back of this truck and stopped.” She gives God the credit for keeping them all safe. “He said, ‘You are only coming this far because I need to preserve the people in this house.’”
As their saga came to a close and officials moved their unexpected refugees to other shelters on the island, Marsha found a familiar face seeking assistance.
Her co-worker, Latonia Cash, and her family of five had been trapped inside their roof for three days as floodwaters swirled in their home below.
She, too, had managed a miracle, rationing corn flakes and a few bottles of water to keep her children and husband Clarence alive at the height of the storm.
After leaving their home of 17 years, the Cash family was turned away from a shelter; instead, they were taken in by the Stubbs who also welcomed the dog the Cash family had taken in just a day before Dorian struck.
There are many beautiful takeaways from this story, especially the power of ordinary people with willing hearts. You don’t have to have Rihanna’s bank account or a cruise line’s resources to help people when and where you are. As Marsha told the Guardian, “I just said to myself that it was God’s will for us to be here for such a time.
“Now that we have done it, some of them have asked ‘What can I do for you’, but I simply say, ‘Pay it forward. If you find that you need to be able to help someone, help them. Teach your children how to pay it forward so that in the end we have a caring country.”’