Each Anniversary of Independence, we honour our forefathers for their invaluable contribution to building this small, but great and proud Sovereign Nation, The Bahamas. But we have been through much over the past 10 months and in paying tribute to our founding fathers, we thought it fitting to honour and remember all those who were so cruelly taken from us by the most destructive hurricane ever recorded in our island, in our time.
The unveiling of this monument is to commemorate all those who tragically perished on Grand Bahama in Hurricane Dorian; the 32 lives lost, those we laid to rest and those still missing. We’ve all been deeply affected by the devastation, and we have weathered many storms, but none in which so much human life was sacrificed.
In a way this follows from the Ecumenical Church service we held at the Jubilee Cathedral, just before Christmas, with Reverend Dr Lockhart, Bishop Godfrey Williams, Cecil Thompson and Lady Henrietta. All of us wanted to create a lasting Memorial, but there, and with other distinguished representatives of the clergy, we all agreed it should take the form of a Cross, yes – a symbol of pain and suffering, but also a symbol of Faith, Hope, Love and most importantly a symbol of Eternal Life.
On behalf of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, I’d like again, to express our sorrow for all the families still mourning the loss of their loved ones, and for those who are still displaced, or struggling to rebuild their homes and lives. But where there is rebuilding, we are seeing a new freshness return – in other words, signs of rebirth and resurrection.
Because Hurricane Dorian mainly affected us & Abaco only, we’ve sometimes felt isolated in our trauma. On top of this, we now share a new burden with everyone else on the planet, as we find ourselves in the middle of COVID-19, and at the mercy of this invisible virus. These last months have been unprecedented in the world as we know it. But we’ve not wavered and we will rise from this too.
The Cross was designed and hand-crafted by artist by Jacqui Boss, who also created our striking Mural of the Four Relay Olympian Gold Medalists at Settler’s Way Roundabout. It was set by Rodney Davermand and I’d like to thank them both. In this Cross, we see the solid pillar of faith, balance and dignified strength. We also see in it, a gateway, an open interior to welcome the air and light inside itself. It’s a lovely metaphor for strength and gentleness, for belief and openness, and for resilience – not in holding back the forces of nature, but in allowing them to blow through us, and leave us standing. We see the Light on the Horizon to Infinity.
In the demure decoration, we can see our famously beautiful Sea and Sky, in a mosaic of blues; a bright, clear and serene blue, with glimpses of a more stormy and serious facet, in the depth of the Navy Blue. The graduation of blues depicts the souls of the departed being carried by the Hand of God from the sea safely up to Heaven.
So the light and the mosaic render this, not so much a mausoleum, as a mirror to the future. Independence is a time for reflection. When we remember how far we’ve come, we find the Will to go forward. And it is also right we should celebrate the many miracles of our survival – hundreds of lives saved, care and compassion, aid from our international friends far and wide. And in that vein, we sponsored the Grand Bahama Rebirth Committee led by Lechea Charles (a hurricane survivor), in a celebration of our local heroes at Port Lucaya Marketplace, whenit reopened last October.
So why is the monument right here? Well, the earliest rescue efforts on jet skis were from these bridges over the waterway. East of this bridge were those who were the most tragically hit. The cross is placed here so all who pass this way evermore, will have pause for thought. It stands small and humble, but proudly exposed to the elements, easily visible, and accessible to everyone. That was the objective.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, when the wind was still howling at a dangerous Cat 1, 75 – 95 mph, many of our gatekeepers left the safety their homes, and put their own lives at risk to save others. Who can ever forget the images of those heroic figures on jet-skis, on boats, in loaders, soaked to the skin, battling wind, rain and sea to rescue people they perhaps had never met before? It will forever be engraved on our hearts.
Those heroes showed the world what it means to be part of OUR community. A true manifestation of Love Thy Neighbour. And CNN and the world, couldn’t believe their eyes. The courage, and spirit of these lion-hearted individuals filled us all with pride. Again I just want to say to them: What you did will never be forgotten. Thank you.
Some of the incredible stories of survival and grief have been recorded in an exciting new book, just published, called “The Water Has Come” by Grand Bahamian author Keldra Pinder. And we have preview copies here today.
Now let’s recognize and pray for those among us today who suffered the terrible loss of a child, little Omarion 7 years old, twins Aaron and Adam 3 year old, Matteo, Remelle, Philip, the loss of a beloved wife, husband, a mother or father, a sister or brother, some a whole family. Here with us, Donreka & Doneka Munnings, May Loise & May Dawn Cooper, Barry Thomas, Philip and Remilda Thomas, Raquel Smith, Franklyn Pinder, Pastor Israel Pinder, Pastor Jenese Pinder, Margaret Lang, Dorie Cooper, Howard Armstrong; this cross is for you and your families.
And let’s also pause and reflect on the blessing of family, friends and community, and the soul of our churches. And the work of all Government, hospital and humanitarian organisations here. Those in uniform; the Police Force and the Defence Force. Let’s also remember our neighbors and relations in Abaco.
I believe monuments such as these help to connect us even more powerfully. We know it’s through love and kindness to one another that we’ll see the promise of a brighter future. But I hope too, it will provide some closure to this turbulent chapter and give us renewed unity and hope, as we mark the 47th year of Independence.
To quote; “Sometimes He parts the Sea for us, sometimes He walks on water and carries us through, and sometimes He just hushes the storm. Where it seems there is no way, He will make a Way—“
In closing, today, this Cross reminds us we stand shoulder to shoulder with the families that have lost their loved ones, and to remember those departed, far far too soon, and those still missing whom we may never see again in this life – May their Souls Rest in Peace!