It has been 6 weeks since Maria plowed through our island, taking with her many hopes, dreams. Yes, we have been without power for a long time. Yes, we have been without reliable cell service and internet. Maria stripped from us what we have come to know as “normal.” Maria made us dig down and see what was in there and what we could do, what we were willing to do, and what we had to do. Maria showed us the force of nature, initially the devastating side, and then the awesome persistence and tenacity of life. We literally awoke to total devastation and not a green leaf on a tree… and only a few weeks later, everything is green and ablaze with color again. Maria turned us upside down. Maria shook us to our core. And I, for one, believe we are all so much better for it.
Maria changed our perspective on what is important. The simple act of lending a helping hand to a neighbor, sharing a meal, coming together and counting our blessings became the “important stuff” in our lives. The question that has been on everyone’s lips when they see someone they haven’t seen in a while is “How’d you do in the storm?” And the answer, EVEN FROM THOSE WHO LOST EVERYTHING, has almost universally been, WE WERE BLESSED. WE STILL HAVE LIFE. Things are things. Stuff is stuff. Maria reminded us of what is important. Maria reminded us that we can survive without power, running water, air conditioning and internet. We just can’t survive without each other.
We will rebuild, and we will be stronger. I know I am stronger. I know I can adjust and adapt if and when disaster strikes, and I know I will be OK. I know how silly and pointless it is to complain, because many, many people have it so much worse than I do, and being negative is just an impediment I am placing on my own path to growth and recovery. Any time I feel like complaining, all I have to do is look around, and see friends who have no roof, people who are displaced from their homes, others who have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and I know that could have been me…..but this time, I was lucky, and spared from those hardships. I am grateful.
Everyone on this island has “suffered” in some way from Maria. And yet, I truly feel, that each and every one of us can say, if we really think about it, that we’ve been blessed by the lessons of Maria. So as Thanksgiving approaches, I am going to be particularly thankful for Maria…
Lessons I learned from Maria:
- I am thankful that I survived that awesomely powerful storm.
- I am thankful for my friends and neighbors who lent a helping hand to me and countless others. Generosity is running rampant on this island!
- I am thankful for this break from “normal”; I have a chance to SLOW DOWN, look at the amazing stars, go to bed at dark and awaken at dawn for a change.
- I am thankful for fewer distractions, like TV, internet and phones. I can just experience what it’s like to BE and watch nature unfold.
- I am thankful to live on an island….. where the real meaning of community is so abundantly clear and powerful (and wonderful!).
- I am thankful to those in the states who have come to our island to help us.
- I am thankful that we have an opportunity to help our neighbors, those in St Thomas, St John and other sister islands recover from these storms. It is in giving and helping that we find grace.
- I am thankful for the many off-island friends, family, former islanders whose empathy for us spurred them to action…and even greatness! Our post office and the shipping ports are jammed with donations from the mainland!
- I am thankful for our customers and clients, who send us countless messages of concern and offers of help, and were (and are) patient with us during this “non-normal” time.
So, thank you Maria! We will rebuild and be stronger – and we will benefit from the lessons we learned from you.
Imagine you are a wedding photographer who has just moved to the island of S Croix. You have worked hard to establish yourself. You’ve sacrificed and donated and finally, your ship has come in and you have a bunch of weddings booked here! YAY! Then, along comes Irma, followed closely by Maria, followed even more closely by people canceling their St Croix weddings. All that work….just disappears. “It’ll be fine,” you say! “The island will be back to normal then,” you say. But the nervous brides say “no….we will find another venue thank you very much.” So what do you do? You could leave the island, go back home to the familiar and reconstruct your life there – OR….you could be Misty Winter, who has taken these “lemons” and turned them into Lemonade!
Misty is a prominent wedding photographer in the Chicago area who recently made the decision to relocate to St Croix. I was the lucky Realtor who got to work with her, actually over several years, until she found just the right spot. When Misty lost her wedding bookings, she turned all that energy into a project to help shed light on St Croix and raise awareness about the impact of Maria on small businesses here. She’s photographing 100 people on island (me included!) and interviewing us, and will create an exhibition and a book about this. VI Strong!
Misty is a shining example of the creativity, fortitude, “Get ‘er Done” kind of people who live here in the VI. We are grateful to her for her help, thankful to have her in our community, and inspired by her shining example of turning lemons into Lemonade!
Oh, and I should also add that when the storms hit Misty was in Chicago, and quickly put together a benefit for the VI to send money and supplies to us… A LOT OF BOTH. THANK YOU MISTY!
You can follow her, and the project on Facebook, and her website:
(p.s. a little teaser… Misty put together an amazing video for St Croix Island Life, which will be featured on our new website, which will launch at the first of the year… don’t miss it!)
Donations are still needed and welcomed
Virgin Islands Relief – http://virginislandsrelief.org
Community fund of the Virgin Islands – http://www.cfvi.net
Lutheran Social Services: They support the community to ensure affected families receive the resources and assistance they need. To donate – go here: lssvi.org
Friends of Cane Bay is accepting donations that will help ST CROIX. www.canebaycares.org
Your donation will be matched and funds are used exclusively for STX.
St Croix Foundation – this is an “umbrella” organization that will get money where it is most needed. A very reputable and worthwhile organization. www.stxfoundation.org.
St Croix Animal Welfare Center: https://www.generosity.com/animal-pet-fundraising/rebuild-the-st-croix-animal-welfare-center.
While none of us have a crystal ball, it doesn’t stop us from making “educated guesses” about what will happen to the real estate market here, based on our past experience. One prominent realtor here has said that we’ll experience a 20% drop in prices due to the storm. Another has rejected this notion and feels that we won’t see a drop. Our team has had many discussions about this and here’s what we think will happen:
1. Private Sales: There will be a lot of “private sales” – sales that don’t go through the MLS. This is a small island and there are many Realtors® here, compared to the population. Everyone has a ‘friend” who is in the real estate business here. Many of those people who just want to sell quickly and get off the island will let their “Realtor® friend” know about this, and their “Realtor® friend” will have customers who will snap up these properties. So, many sales will not go thru the system and will not be used as “comparable sales” for appraisals. That’s probably a good thing for keeping the market healthy.
2. Market Value Decline: Those few people who don’t have a “Realtor® friend” and/or who want to list, to get a better price, will likely receive offers well below their desired selling price, and may end up taking them just to get out. So this will likely have the impact of dampening sales prices, and we could definitely see a decline in market value – but who knows by how much Investors will always seek out beautiful spots where there are people desperate to sell. So once homes start going on the market (we haven’t seen a surge of new listings, that’s for sure), there may be a “feeding frenzy” of people scooping up hurricane damaged homes from people who are just ready for a change and to get back to some sense of normal.
3. Back to Normal: Once the infrastructure gets back in place and we have power, internet, cell service, our island will be green and humming and those of you in cold climates will likely be ready for some warm weather…. and once here and you see how wonderful it is….you may be interested in exploring real estate options. St Croix has ALWAYS been a bargain in the Caribbean, and will likely be even MORE of a bargain soon…so buying may resume at a normal pace and at more reasonable (for here) prices. Our inventory is still way down – so at least at this time, it is not a buyer’s market. So these two factors combined lead us to think that there won’t be a dramatic drop in the overall market value of homes here.
St Croix is very resilient. The island is greening-up very quickly and there is infrastructure progress every day. We still have a LONG way to go, but by the first of the year, I think we will be nearly back to “normal.” Till then, it is a tough place to live and work – and the elderly and those with children may have to leave…creating opportunities for YOU! Considering that closings take at least 2 – 4 months here, buying now will have you SET for wintertime in the Caribbean!
if you know of specific properties you’d like to check out – to see how they fared in the storm – there is Maria imagery here: https://storms.ngs.noaa.gov/storms/maria/index.html#7/17.440/-64.891