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Address from the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports

National Day of Reflection 2018: After Irma – Overcoming Together

Today we reflect on how far we have come one year after the most catastrophic storm, hurricane Irma, wreaked havoc on our island.

On September 6, 2017, howling winds of more than 185 mph left a trail of devastation across the country. Trees were down, roofs had taken flight, and waters had flooded inland. We walked out of our homes, or the places we were sheltering and looked around us with bewilderment. In a passing of one night, it seemed our world had turned upside down.

Yet, as we greeted our neighbours and asked if everyone was unhurt, the echoing response came, “Give God thanks! We have life, so we are alright.” We knew right then, in the midst of all the rumble, that we would overcome. This is the resilience of the people of Soualuiga!

The following days and weeks unfolded with ironic speed – aid at some points seemed slow, while looters were moving fast. This was a different and unsettling experience for those of us who had survived Luis 22 years before. This was not the spirit of Sint Maarten. The panic and man-made mayhem should never again be seen among us. We are better when we look out for each other, when we stand together. This is the way we will overcome.

Much cleaning of our communities has already been done, and the accumulation of waste and debris is a challenge that this Government is working hard to resolve. Some buildings have been repaired but we are very much aware that the rebuilding process will still take some more time. Yet Sint Maarten, we have come a far way! Schools are open, businesses are operational, our airport and harbour are able to welcome visitors and receive cargo. We have better communication with our neighbours as we look out for the welfare of each other the friendly way.

Let us keep working together to restore the beauty of this island paradise which we are privileged to call HOME. Let us be united in our efforts, as together we are an indomitable force, even for a category 5 storm. We will look back at September 6, 2017, as the day that set Sint Maarten on a path of building back stronger together. Sint Maarten and lovers of Sint Maarten, near and far, today, we can say, after Irma, we are OVERCOMING TOGETHER!

As we observe two minutes in silent reflection from 9:06am to 9:08am, I ask that we hold hands with those close by us as a symbol of unity. May we be our brother’s keeper that after Irma, we can overcome together.

Wycliffe S. Smith, M.A M.Ed.
Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport