Speech of Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest, – Photo by Tim Alleyn
The first week in September of 2019 according to scientific and social assessments, saw the most deadly and devastating storm in an independent Bahamas. Hurricane Dorian took lives and left tremendous loss, hurt, and pain.
It is fitting that we gather at the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge to commemorate the lives lost during the passing of Hurricane Dorian with this Monument. On behalf of the government, I commend The Grand Bahama Port Authority and its partners for this kind gesture.
This occasion pays tribute to those who died as a result of Hurricane Dorian. It reminds us not only of their loss, but also of the tremendous effort and courage the surviving families and friends have had to bear as they carry on and rebuild their lives and properties. We want them to know they are not forgotten also and their strength is memorialized in this monument.
As we travel in the area after today, this monument will celebrate each and every life claimed or destroyed by Dorian.
This moment and the monument will highlight our resilience and determined drive to carry on for those who did not make it. Their fight to navigate the historic winds and water is now our fight to build stronger communities in their honour.
As the Member of Parliament for East Grand Bahama, the pain remains personal. Many who died were my friends. Some who are still missing I know personally. I visited those beautiful homes now shattered and destroyed.
Since this historic storm, the government has taken measurable steps to take lessons from our experience and strengthen institutions to prepare for future storms that we must assume will come.
The Unveiling of this Monument cements the fact that our recovery demands a unified approach. We are in this together.
We have legislated mandatory evacuations. We have hardened our sea defences with the completion of the Smith’s
Point Sea Wall and the Fishing Hole Causeway, with more such infrastructure to come in East End to replace walls washed out and culverts that need to be repaired in roadways.
Similarly, West End Sea Walls are slated for improvements to protect that costal community, to better protect and save the lives of our people. Shelters damaged as a result of Dorian are being repaired and new ones identified. Our Rand Memorial Hospital is being completely renovated and renewed into an almost new facility with expanded bed capacity, in preparation for a new facility that will eventually be built as things return to normal. This government realizes there is no quick fix to do it right, but we understand the urgency.
Building codes that better prepare and protect our people and property during storms are being drafted. NEMA is being strengthen in its leadership and management of disaster preparation and response. The Disaster Recovery Authority has been stood up and is now assisting persons with their rebuilding efforts. Social Services is also being strengthened locally to respond more efficiently to its clients with dignity and respect.
The Unveiling of this Monument cements the fact that our recovery demands a unified approach. We are in this together. And we will get through this together. So forgive me as I just…nudge the GBPA and its partners just a little to redouble their efforts to complete the clean-up of our communities on the island. Too many streets in my community here, just up the street remain littered with boats, debris, poles and wire, hampering the rebuilding effort and indeed the mental recovery of residents. I humbly ask that we complete this project which will go a long way towards the recovery.
It is important the we continue to express our gratitude for those frontline workers, first responders and the brave and caring private citizens who became creative with the likes of jets skis, boats, and heavy equipment to save lives during Hurricane Dorian. This memorial is for them too.
Yet another forceful reminder that we are indeed a village and together we cannot and will not fail. The joining of our hearts and hands will continue to make the load we bear lighter.
Let me also say to my dear constituents of East Grand Bahama, that in addition to this monument, I intend with the help of the government to erect a fitting memorial in East End proper. Further details will be announced after consultation with the local Government Council and residents.
We must not allow the lives we commemorate today to go in vain. May the departed souls of our loved ones continue to rest in peace and I pray our love for their lives will stop at nothing to cherish their legacy.
May God continue to bless us all and our beloved Bahamas.