As a first responder to natural disasters for the American Humane Rescue team, I carry heavy memories of each deployment deep within me. These memories shape me and offer me an unrelenting drive to fight for the voiceless. One year ago, I took my first steps through the rubble of what was left of the Abaco Islands in the wake of Hurricane Dorian. My memories of this experience are vast and much heavier than those that reside with me from many other disaster response experiences. While heavy, however, these memories also provide me with a well-spring of hope and thankfulness for the resiliency of communities and animals.
In early September 2019, catastrophic Hurricane Dorian ravaged the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama, claiming lives, tearing families apart, and destroying countless homes and businesses. My time spent in the Bahamas providing disaster relief to animals feels both like a very distant, painful memory and simultaneously like I am standing for the first time amongst the vast destruction. My team spent three weeks in Abaco rescuing, sheltering and providing medical care for terrified, starving and injured animals recovered from the piles of rubble where their families once lived, and their homes once stood. We worked tirelessly side-by-side with the proud Bahamian people, their resilience, grace and strength never wavering. We shared their pain and felt their despair, but we also witnessed the hope come back into their eyes as we reunited them with a lost beloved pet and their pet sighing heavily with relief when finally placed back into the safety of their owner’s arms.
This year, the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down and caused worldwide devastation, loss and struggle. When everyday life feels daunting, I reflect on the strength and resolve of the Bahamian people and the incredibly resilient animal survivors of Hurricane Dorian. I am reminded of the brilliant sun rising above the rubble every morning during our time in Abaco, a reminder of the beauty that still exists amongst the chaos.
As we now commemorate the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Dorian, we remember the Bahamian people and animals who lost their lives, the families that were broken, and the dreams that were destroyed.
We also remember those who worked tirelessly before, during and after the storm – their heroic efforts will never be forgotten. Our Rescue team is so grateful for your support, which affords us the opportunity to serve and protect animals worldwide. Our team’s efforts have never wavered throughout these uncertain times. We are still standing by, first to serve, for animals in need. Our team recently deployed to Louisiana following Hurricane Laura’s landfall and assisted a local shelter inundated with displaced animals, transporting 37 cats to safe havens in Oklahoma and Colorado. Additionally, we have given out some 600,000 meals to hungry shelters pets through our Feed the Hungry fund, which assists animal shelters struggling due to the impacts of COVID-19. Our team also continues to train volunteer responders nationwide as we develop a virtual animal emergency services training, enabling us to impact more animal lives.
As a nation, we do not know what may be in store for us tomorrow, but, as the Bahamian people and animals have upheld, we do know that through strength, community, grace, and perseverance, we will rebuild and get through this together, one day at a time. Stay safe, stay strong, and thank you for all that you do for the animals.