BY JUDY HAUGHTON-JAMES
Over one month of this year's hurricane season has passed and it is a relief that so far it has been a quiet one on our tropical island. Nevertheless we dare not forget that the season is not over until November 30.
As I think about the storms and hurricanes that Janine and I have experienced over the years, I must say how much I will miss her if another one comes around. She was always great company at that time. We would sit and listen to the radio or move around the house together. Our first real experience of a hurricane was Hurricane Gilbert on September 12, 1988. It was one of the worst hurricanes to hit Jamaica.
Like so many persons who had never experienced a hurricane we kept asking the question "Can it be so scary?" Our windows were battened down and we sat tense waiting for Gilbert to arrive. I can remember that Janine and I climbed up and looked through a high window and were so shocked to see how dark and desolate it looked outside although it was only about 11 a.m. That sight kept us from looking outside until Gilbert had truly departed our shores.
Packing winds of about 160 miles (265km) per hour it was not only content to let us hear the roar of its ferocious howling winds and pelting rain but left us with no doubt that it had a special thing for roofs. No wonder some Jamaicans called it 'Gilbert Roofus Hurricane.' As Janine and I huddled in our bedroom we looked through the door and after hearing a loud sound we saw the living-room ceiling take an awful dip with water pouring in. As we moved from room to room we could see that it had done damage to several areas. Luckily our room snuggled between rooms on every side was not affected.
Electricity was dealt a severe blow and for many weeks there was no television. Janine and I occupied ourselves writing, crocheting, playing board games, reading, listening to music, chatting together and spending time with family members. We tried to be content as we gained light from candles and lamps with the familiar slogan 'HOME SWEET HOME.'
The lack of light made us learn to appreciate nature even more. As the moonlight shone around homes and on the streets the fireflies popularly known as 'Peenie Wallies' provided us with lights like flashlights to the rescue.
Being on a farm we could not help but notice the widescale destruction of trees. For example our cherry, plum, Oti eati apple and other fruit trees were destroyed. The cherry tree was laden with big cherries. Throughout our childhood days we regularly picked cherries from this tree and even ate some green ones.
It was a time for flexibility as we all had to contend with changes in the food we ate and the places we were accustomed to going. Gilbert certainly reminded us of the saying "The branch that will not bend with the wind will surely break." In true Jamaican fashion culinary experts came up with some new ideas. For example a restaurant in the capital city of Kingston served a special dish called 'Chicken Gilbert' while a bakery offered a new shaped bread called 'Gilbert.'
Our ability as a people to look at the lighter side of things was also evident. Our musicians recorded songs on the Gilbert experience but not the terrifying things in a way that made people sad. Like so many other Jamaicans we laughed when we heard the song 'Wild Gilbert' by Lloyd Lovindeer.
The community spirit displayed during and after the hurricane truly reflected our national motto 'Out of Many One People.' When disaster strikes it causes a great deal of pain, destruction and death but as many countries came to Jamaica's assistance this quotation became one of our favourites -''The earth is one country and mankind its citizens."