This was nothing new for D’Shan Maycock and her family. As native Bahamians and homeowners on the Abaco islands, they had been through hurricanes time and again. The family heeded warnings and prepared, as they usually did, by stocking up on food and water, filling bathtubs and putting up their shutters.
“We thought that we were fully prepared,” she says of the storm, “but that was no ordinary hurricane.”
What began as routine preparation and procedure for riding out yet another storm ended with Maycock and her family surviving one of the worst natural disasters to ever strike the Bahamas.
“It wasn’t so bad in the first part of the storm. It was bad, but not horrible,” Maycock recounts. “But when I looked up, I could see the ceiling just trembling, and I realized that ceiling was going to go off.”
Early in the storm’s onslaught, Maycock and her husband knew parts of the roof had been compromised. After moving all of their furniture into one of the few remaining secure rooms in the house, the winds began to abate. The eye of the storm had arrived, and so had a period of precious reprieve—but that reprieve was short lived.
“My husband and one of my sons were trying to fix one of the shutters that had come off, and they had to immediately come back inside, because they realized it was just not safe.”
It wasn’t until after the eye had passed over that things began to change. The winds began to roar; there was a profound shaking. D’shan, her husband, their five children and her mother, brother and three nephews huddled in the house as it began to tear apart around them.
“We had to basically run for cover inside our bathroom. With two mattresses we were able to just sit there, and we were stuck in that bathroom for the next two days.”
As her family took cover in the bathroom, there was nothing they could do but listen as the storm laid waste to their home. “You could just hear things crashing, the roof lifting. We were scared to come out, because every time we tried, you would hear something being thrown about.”
As the world watched the massive storm stall over the Abacos, Maycock and her family were trapped in a tiny bathroom, praying for the ordeal to finally end.
Their prayers must have worked, because the bathroom in which the family took shelter was the only room that survived. “I never felt that close to death in my life,” Maycock says. “I just felt like, if I’m going to die, then I just have to go. But thankfully, that bathroom became like our ark, our safety net. It was the only place in the house that the roof actually stayed on.”
When the storm finally subsided, Maycock and her family emerged from the bathroom after two days to find the island they called home completely leveled.
“Everything we did to prepare ourselves for the storm, it didn’t even matter anymore. It was like everybody now was at a point where we had to figure out how we were going to survive.” With no communication to the outside world, Maycock said it felt “like being trapped inside a bubble.” It took the family days to make its way first to Nassau, then eventually out of the Bahamas altogether.
Even after a life lived in the shadow of hurricane alley, the shock inflicted by Dorian’s destructive visit has proved hard to shake. “It took two days to change our life. [In] two days … we basically lost everything.”
Maycock and her family are now in Florida, staying in an apartment funded by donations from benefactors and what remains of their life savings. While they’re thankful to be safe and in a more stable environment than their ravaged home island, Maycock and her family have issues to contend with now that they never could have foreseen.
“The U.S. government has not given us any type of protected status, so we don’t have any way to really work legally here in the U.S.,” she says, of how they intend to move forward. “My husband and I both applied to get work permits. … You can plan all your life, you can strategize, and in just a moment, it can just change overnight. Right now we basically just have to live very humbly and try to make the best out of the situation.”