One Year Later.

salomon rock structure
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I should post today. It’s 11:05 p.m. on September 5th, and I am still at a loss.

I’ve spent the last hour or so rereading posts from last year. Posts I made leading up to Hurricane Irma and posts I made in the days after. I’ve also read hundreds of comments left by all of you.

What I’m seeing and reading is pretty amazing. The love and support you showed us in those days leading up to Irma, during the hurricane itself and the days, weeks, and months after is palpable.

I really don’t know what to say today. So if I start to rant, please forgive me.

On September 8, 2017 I asked you all for help on my Facebook page. At that time, many of us on St. John felt forgotten. I asked you all to reach out to any media contacts you had, to call your congresspeople, to contact anyone you thought could help our situation. And you did. You did more than I ever could have imagined.

That single post was shared 23,000 times. Twenty-three thousand times. It was seen by 2,437,133 people just on Facebook alone. That’s pretty incredible. And you know what? It worked. It alerted people to our plight, and it helped get additional help to the islands. And that’s a credit to all of you. Thank you.

The day before Irma, I posted that our world was about to change and despite the inevitable destruction that was on the horizon, we would show you the best of humanity. And this island did. It was, and continues to be, awe-inspiring to witness.

In my final post before we ultimately lost power and internet on September 6, 2017, I asked you all to come back. And you did that too. Overwhelmingly. Thank you.

You know, those first few months before you all starting trickling back onto the island were strange. Sure it was strange because we were adjusting to our new post-hurricane world, but it was also weird to not have you all here. I’m not sure if you all realize this, but many of us here on island feed off of the energy of the constant influx of visitors. I know I certainly do. And I missed that. So thank you for coming back. I wish I could happy hour with each and every one of you! Cheers to that!

So what’s the state of the island today? Well it’s pretty darn good. All of our beaches and trails are open, and have been since late last year. We have countless villas and condos available to rent, and many of those damaged during the storms are currently undergoing repairs. The Westin is working hard on its rebuild and is on schedule to reopen in January 2019. The future of Caneel Bay, however, remains in limbo, so there is no telling when it will reopen. And while many of our restaurants and bars are currently closed for low season, dozens will be open for you to enjoy this winter. And yes, Joe’s Rum Hut and The Beach Bar will reopen this year … I promise you that! Lastly, the airlines are expanding their flight schedules making it easier for you to visit us. Things are happening here.

It’s now 12:27 a.m. and I should totally be snoozing. Dalton is sleeping peacefully beside me. Can we chat about him for a moment?

I’ve always said that I thought St. John was a great place to raise a child. I just never knew that I would be fortunate enough to have that experience. And little Dalton’s story is a good one. Well it is in my opinion. :)

My boyfriend and I evacuated six days after Irma. His restaurant was destroyed, and I had no way of communicating with all of you. We figured it’d be best to evacuate so not to take up the island’s limited resources.

We returned to St. John on one of Kenny Chesney’s relief planes on October 3, 2017. A little over a month later, we learned we would be first-time parents.

Being pregnant in a disaster zone certainly wasn’t the easiest, but it also gave me purpose. And that’s something I really needed back then. There were so many days when I would have preferred to daydrink at the Landing all day, or sip wine until the wee hours of the morning. There were days where I, and many others, simply struggled to get out of bed. But I couldn’t succumb to any of that because I had this precious little life to take care of. I can honesty say that Dalton, coupled with the love and support from all of you, is what got me though the last year. Again, thank you.

They say that not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path. Hurricane Irma led me to Dalton. So that’s my silver lining to this storm.

It’s now 12:43 a.m. and I’m getting weary. So I think I am going to end this post here. Again, I cannot adequately say how much your love has touched my life. I have read the comments. I have read the emails. I apologize if I have not yet responded to them all, but I assure you I have read them. If you are reading this site, it means you love St. John, and I love you for that.

So in true St. John fashion, let’s raise a glass and toast us all today. It’s been one hell of a year, but we all made it through it together. Much love to you all.

-Jenn

49 comments for “One Year Later.

  1. David Zavagno
    September 6, 2018 at 1:41 am

    In times of peril and when so many of us are so far away, we limp along with tangents of information, rumors and news to fill the void. Your time and efforts have allowed so many to feel connected and most importantly receive valuable information as to the true state of SJ. For the casual vacationer the island represents a place they visited and for many others a second “home” When rocked to its core those with the strongest ties struggle to find the land line and your hard work has allowed us to secure an anchor weathering whatever has come your way. Take great solace to know your voice is heard, we appreciate you, your commitment and postings. We don’t take them for granted. Many of us pray for a calm fall, recovery and in a sad way back to business as usual. We have enjoyed the better connection and at the same time understand business unusual is not a sound future. Always know as you look up at the stars at night, the plethora of light both bright and dim, are all of us keeping an eye out for SJ, you and your family.
    Peace and happiness.

  2. Quenton
    September 6, 2018 at 7:11 am

    Good morning,
    Wonderful post.
    Enjoy the island.

  3. Mama and Papa news
    September 6, 2018 at 7:14 am

    We are so grateful that the darkness has passed for your beautiful island, and pray it will never return. We are so proud of you dear daughter, and the talented writer that you are. And so very, very grateful to be blessed with our beautiful grandson Dalton. Love you! Mom & Dad

    • Beth Martin
      September 6, 2018 at 6:19 pm

      And thank you Papa News of St John for doing what you could to keep us informed when Jenn could not directly. It was greatly appreciated

  4. Philip Yachmetz
    September 6, 2018 at 7:35 am

    Thank you Jenn and all our island family and friends for to unwavering dedication to rebuilding and resilience to do so! Our support is and will continue to be here in a variety of ways, but you on the ‘front lines’ so to speak deserve the real credit and all the thanks!
    Love, respect and faith!
    Philip

  5. Sandy perra
    September 6, 2018 at 7:39 am

    Jenn,

    We found St John 20 years ago….took a day trip off of our cruise ship that stopped at St Thomas. It was the best day trip we took on that cruise. We ought a time share and have been on the island every year since! Irma messed up our villas pretty bad so we had to take our December 2017 vacation in February of 2018 on Grand Cayman….I just have to say that the trip failed miserably to compare to St John. We are headed back to SJ in 86 days and I cannot wait to spend our 2 weeks reacquainting our selves with the island. I am glad you stayed with with all of us as our island reporter…..I have read your posts each day with hope of getting back there in 2018. Thank you for being positive, honest and so very insightful.

  6. Kori
    September 6, 2018 at 7:49 am

    Last night until after midnight I was doing the exact same thing here in Ohio…reading through old posts from one year ago. As the tears started to fall, I remembered being on island in May/June and a smile quickly came along. I love STJ and it always feels like home the instant my feet hit the dock. I would take one day on STJ than a week anywhere else in the world. Thank you Jenn for keeping us all one step closer to our happy place in the sun. #STJstrong

  7. Ember
    September 6, 2018 at 7:59 am

    Your reflection on the last year is beautiful. I can’t wait to be back visiting on island in December.

  8. Debbie Otto
    September 6, 2018 at 8:25 am

    We LOVE St John and cant wait to be back in March!! Love & Hugs to you all!! St John Strong

  9. Jane
    September 6, 2018 at 8:35 am

    My husband & I came to love SJ years ago when he had a sideline business doing voice & data wiring for the parochial schools in all 3 of the islands- our hearts were always with the people & the places of your beautiful island & since closing his business we still try to get down every few years. We were heartbroken last year & have so appreciated being able to keep up with everything going on through your heartfelt words. Bless you & your little family & the island we love so dearly

  10. Susanne
    September 6, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Much love back and hoping to see little Dalton’s pictures as he grows.

  11. Taylor Novak
    September 6, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Jenn thanks for your tireless work on getting communications out and showing us how we all could help. I’ve read the blog everyday since leaving island on September 3rd last year. We are proud of you and all of the St Johnians hard work, tears, and bloodshed. We are ready to be back this March!

  12. Shaina
    September 6, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Thank you for your posts. We can’t wait to come back to St John! Congratulations on your little boy he’s so sweet.

  13. Donna Broderick
    September 6, 2018 at 8:55 am

    St. John: You couldn’t control the wind, but you did adjust your sails! Thank you.

    • Nancie Moore
      September 6, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Well said, Donna. That’s the key to surviving just about anything!

  14. Michelle
    September 6, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Continued love for Love City….

  15. Laura V.
    September 6, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Big hugs to you Jenn. Thank you for all of your efforts over the past year. You should be very proud. Here’s to a peaceful and safe Fall season for everyone. My feet touch down again on Love City on December 26th. I can’t wait!

  16. Jo
    September 6, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Thank YOU. Many of us agonized in front of our computers, scanning for St John news when there was very little to be found. It seemed the storm had swept the whole island away, but a few voices let us know you were still there, asking for help. We responded. We returned. And we will continue to love Love City.

  17. Tom I.
    September 6, 2018 at 9:27 am

    Thanks for doing what you do……..keeping us connected to an amazing place and the wonderful people that make it so special. Your writing is spectacular, but there is nothing like being there!! We are booked for Christmas week and can’t wait to get back on island!!

  18. Cheryl Simon
    September 6, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Having lived my life in a hurricane’s potential path having a win over Hurricane Katrina among others, seeing tiny STJ in the monster’s eye was terrifying to watch unfold from NOLA. Completely aware of the destruction Irma could bring to the island I left my soul with many years ago. I scavenged through any bits of news I could find. Becoming aware of the devastation she left behind was difficult but I hung on every word you posted. (Then Daddy St. John) I struggled to find remote ways to help. Thank you for giving us that. Even though we were not there physically, my every thought was with you and your island family. I’m not sure you’ll understand the gift you gave to us statesiders. Thank you Jen.
    We are back on island for the second time post Irma and are amazed at the beauty STJ has retained and recovered! The human and animal resiliency amazes us! Blessings to your little tiny Dalton! His will be a story to share for many years to come. We hope to see you soon. I have a little something for your blessing. #loveforlovecity

  19. Diane Bormann
    September 6, 2018 at 10:05 am

    Cheers to a wonderful full year ahead of firsts with you and mike and that little one. Life is great. See you in October. Much love to you and love city.

  20. Lynnette Stuart
    September 6, 2018 at 10:18 am

    Jenn, after 28 years of being fortunate enough to have visited STJ each year, our hearts were broken to watch what you, all of the other St. Johnians and our precious little island went through. You were OUR lifeline as we scoured each day for information and hope. And, having returned this past June, I saw first-hand why we love that little island so much. We are truly grateful to you and everyone on island for being a part of why STJ is such a special place. We look forward to returning in February!

  21. Lynn Blaisdell
    September 6, 2018 at 10:22 am

    Well put! Here’s to everyone living on St John!
    Stay strong and continue to thrive! Those of us that love that little island and the residents haven’t forgotten you!
    ❤️

  22. Patrick FL UK
    September 6, 2018 at 11:01 am

    What happened that day reminds me of a scene in Apollo 13. The Flight Director Gene Kranz overhears two NASA directors discussing the low survival chances for the crippled spacecraft. “I know what the problems are Henry,” one of them says. “This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.”

    “With all due respect Sir,” Kranz intervenes, “I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”

    From what I have seen and read, the real story is the how everyone dealt with the storm. The stories of human courage, care and support that arose post Irma brings tears to my eyes. I fell in love with that island just nine years ago and it’s a bit of trek to get here from the UK…… but it’s worth it. See you next April

  23. David
    September 6, 2018 at 11:24 am

    Jenn,
    Continue to do a great job! For us that are obsessed with St. John, you continue to provide us with relevant information on a daily basis and we all appreciate it! I re-read all your linked posts and September 8, 2017, gave me the chills again. Soon come for our 14th trip in 55 days!

  24. Ancka Ziolkowski
    September 6, 2018 at 11:31 am

    It is only today that I realize that you are Mike’s Jenn. We have met before but I never connected you to being the writer of The News of St. John. So, I thank you for all of your news updates over this past year. Any news from you and others help keep me connected to the rock that I love so much. Last time I saw you, Dalton was safe at home in your belly, so I look forward to meeting him again in February. Take care of yourself and your boys.

  25. Karen
    September 6, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Jenn,

    Looking forward …I heard that Coral Bay may be opening a charter school. I understand the local school was closed a few years ago and currently the students are bused to Cruz Bay. Do you know anything about a school opening in Coral Bay?? If you have any information I would love to know how to support the effort.

    Karen

    • September 6, 2018 at 4:36 pm

      I am interested too on how we can support. Is the public school on Cruz Bay still closed? Where do the children go?

  26. Mary Moon
    September 6, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I have been wondering how everyone has been doing down there. I have seen posts but they weren’t that regular. I am glad things are getting back to normal and everything is alright.

    During Kenny’s tour he stopped in Syracuse, NY. I made a Love For Love City poster and got David Lee Murphy to autograph the week before. During the tail gates before the concert I got people to donate $2.00 to sign the poster or leave a message for Kenny. I gave it to Deanna and Slippers and they did give it to Kenny. If you get to see Kenny ask him about the poster. I raised $250 for LFLC. I have also been making sure on Twitter that people remeber the islands hit by Irma and Maria. It’s really good to know I have been able to help even if I can’t get there, probably never will either.

  27. Joan Bayuk
    September 6, 2018 at 12:21 pm

    I have read your posts faithfully searching for information on St John, its people, recovery and how we could help from the states. My husband and I returned in April for our 8th visit since 2011. We spoke with many St Johnians, and learned just how strong the people of St John are. We are looking forward to our next visit to St John in January. Stay strong St John and thank you Jenn. We absolutely love this island!!!!

  28. Debbie
    September 6, 2018 at 1:57 pm

    Beautiful post!

  29. Minnesota Mike
    September 6, 2018 at 2:16 pm

    Goosebumps reading this Jenn. Lots of goosebumps.
    Can’t wait till Feb!!!!

  30. mary
    September 6, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Thank you Jenn for staying online thru all of this. St John is the most beautiful place on earth.

  31. Julie Fariel
    September 6, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    Dear Jenn,

    I read your post with tears in my eyes. What a life changing year you have had. This line of yours particularly stood out to me. “They say that not all storms come to disrupt your life. Some come to clear your path.” I have felt that too- once we knew everyone was safe. In some ways the island itself, its residents and the visitors who think of the island as a loved one experienced a cleansing. The island is busy healing itself, as nature will do. Residents are doing the same. Some moved on and some stayed to rebuild. Some visitors moved on and some could not leave their loved one when they were needed the most. But those who experienced this are forever changed and what matters has become crystal clear. Thanks for all you have done to keep us connected and for your outreach which has been so effective. That little guy of yours will reap the benefits of your love of him and your island. Blessings to you and your beautiful St. John family Jenn.

  32. Lisa Cummings
    September 6, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    Another great post. Thinking of all of you today. Thanks for the regular updates throughout the year- even when it wasn’t easy. Our return trip last June was our best trip ever!

  33. Pam
    September 6, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    Jenn, you have been the lifeline to all who love STJ! Having returned in August, we experienced the resilience, courage, positive attitudes of each person we met. Amazing!! To Everyone: keep supporting the groups that are still working hard to help St John. Hands & Hearts, Kenny Chesney, Bloomberg , St John Foundation, ACC and all those I can’t recall. God Bless Love City!

  34. September 6, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    Hello Jenn,
    We cannot thank you enough for the wealth of information on your blog. My family and I celebrated milestones of our lives at St John. Two of our good friends introduced us to the beauty of the Island when they were both working at the National Park Service. We got hooked! Starting in 2003, when my daughter chose to hold her engagement party at STJ, I have visited the island 8 times (my husband 9 times). On his 60th birthday fifteen years ago, he preferred a trip to STJ than a birthday bash. We are going back in December to celebrate his 75th with the one friend who used to work at NPS and who is now a widow.
    Before I booked our villa, I scoured the internet for news about StJ. I was so elated when I stumbled upon your blog. Thank you so much for keeping us posted. I am on page nine of page 700+ so I have a lot of reading to do to catch up. While you were writing your post last night, I was reviewing all the NFSJ videos and shared them with friends. Your Raffle Fund Raising Post was absolutely remarkable. So happy that Ms Lucy is back in business and so is Skinny Legs. Sad though that Zozo is not operational anymore. Looking forward to rediscovering Maho Bay, Salt Pond, etc, and Mongoose Junction again.
    You may have written about the fate of the Public School on the island, but I wonder where the children go after Irma and Maria. Will keep on reading…

  35. Sandy Rowe
    September 6, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    So many times today I found myself thinking of St John as well as the other islands. Many of my friends heard me more than once say “One year ago today our beloved islands were being hit by one of the worse hurricanes to ever hit the islands”. I thought of all the wonderful, resilient people we have had the pleasure of meeting over the last 18 years. Of returning last February to an island with a totally different landscape, but still an island filled with warmth, kindness, strength and love. Thank you for staying strong, never giving up when most would crumble, for moving forward to make the place you call home a beautiful place that we can call home for a couple weeks every year. #loveforlovecity,

  36. Barbara Novick
    September 6, 2018 at 6:10 pm

    Jenn, THANK YOU for keeping those of us on the mainland in the loop before, during, and since Irma. Congratulations, again, on the birth of your son, Dalton.

  37. Kate
    September 6, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    You are an amazing writer.Thank you for this.

  38. Donna
    September 6, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Beautiful post! Looking forward to arriving back to the island we love so much! 22 days and counting!

  39. Kathy in Wisconsin
    September 6, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    A year ago tonight, about midnight, I typed the following into my phone: “You WILL survive.” I addressed it to my son, but never sent the text. You see, my son was on St John, and the blackout had been in effect for hours already. He had told us we might not hear from him for as much as a week, but that he would get word to us as soon as he possibly could.

    It was actually “only” about 30 hours later when he managed to make a quick satellite call to his wife in the States and let us know he was OK. But those were 30 of the darkest hours our family ever hopes to experience. And of course none of us had any idea then that we’d go through it all again two weeks later with Maria.

    When I typed that message, knowing I could never send it by any earthly means, I was whistling in the dark. I didn’t know if he would survive, and neither did he. But as a mother, two thousand miles away and utterly powerless, it was all I could do. The message is still sitting in my Drafts. I can’t bring myself to delete it.

    You are a mother now yourself, Jenn. I hope you never have a dark night of the soul like that. But if you do, I hope it ends as well as ours did. I am so proud of you and the people of St John, and all the helpers everywhere.

  40. Sally
    September 7, 2018 at 12:06 am

    Just so grateful to you for being able to read what is happening on my favorite place on earth. Coming down soon to help out.

  41. Tom B
    September 7, 2018 at 1:09 am

    It’s truly amazing how an event as destructive as a major hurricane can change your life in so many positive ways. It makes you appreciate what is truly important in life, and it can bring out the best in you. I often reflect back on Hurricane Katrina 13 years later, and how it changed our lives. I think storms, in their disruption change your path, providing you persevere and have faith.

    St John is a special place that helped heal me after Katrina and several other difficult times in my life.
    It is heartwarming to see the island and the people recover.

    Thank you so much for your reporting and perseverance. Congratulations on your progress and your child, and best of luck for the future.

  42. Jessica Morse
    September 7, 2018 at 9:25 am

    Thank you for sharing all of this, Jenn. What a wonderful way to honor the special beauty of St. John and it’s people.

  43. Vanessa Grimston
    September 7, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    Beautiful post. Congrats on the baby. We are so glad to hear the island is recuperating. We will be visiting in November, and hope to make a move down there in February. We are looking forward to being members of THIS strong, resilient community. Lots of love.

  44. David W Koch
    September 8, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Beautifully expressed. I’ve long thought St. John is a special place, but never realized just how special until the aftermath of Irma. Everyone who knows St. John seems to feel connected, and privileged by that connection. The residents, though, are the true champions. So much respect and thanks are due to the residents from we occasional visitors. Thank you for keeping the precious spirit of St. John alive and strong and letting us visitors be a small part of the family. Like others, can’t wait to get back!

  45. Jim Craze
    September 10, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Jenn,

    Beautifully written, Jenn. As you can see, you have many friends and supporters. You have been the eyes and ears for many who follow your every word and pour over each photo and video you post. See you next week if the hurricane gods permit.

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