Like many people, I’ve spent the past week watching the slow-motion horror of Hurricane Irma work its way along the Leeward Islands. The massive Category 5 hurricane, maybe the biggest ever recorded, churned and chewed up the small island nations and territories. The damage reports on the island of Barbuda alone are staggering. The government believes that 95% of the buildings have been destroyed. Saint Martin was directly in the path as well and sustained catastrophic damage. A heavy toll was taken by the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands as the eye passed over them.
I am a big consumer of news. I watch hours of coverage every day and follow several news agencies on social media. By my (unofficial) estimate, there were only minor mentions — if any at all — of the Virgin Islands. The Today Show on NBC did a report on the islands affected and mentioned all of them except the Virgins. Are the reporters to embarrassed to say the word Virgin? I don’t know.
I’ve been tracking the coverage and the major networks have had reporters in Florida for almost a week. I’ve seen some live shots from Puerto Rico. The weather reporters often described US landfall as only when Florida would be hit, never mentioning that the US was being pummeled as Irma hit the islands. What is wrong with them? I’m frustrated and embarrassed by the coverage.
The US media has failed the people of the Virgin Islands — and the islanders have noticed. You only need to search #USVI on Twitter to see that. I tweeted a national weatherman about this lapse and he said they were waiting until they could get some pictures out of the islands. It was a weak response and I told him to check Twitter.
I’m admittedly a jaded person, years covering news does that to you. But this has shaken me. I’ve watched places that mean something to me get shattered by a storm and heard pleas from the people of the Virgins on social media and watch those pleas fall on the deaf ears of the national media. It honestly makes me sick.
Here are some examples of the conversation on Twitter:
The islands are used to hurricanes, it’s just part of life when you live in tropical waters. They will pick up the pieces and carry on as they have done for generations.
Okay, I’m done venting. To close out, here are a few charities that focus on the islands and will assist in the recovery.
- Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands
- Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands
- Americares Hurricane Relief Fund
- You Caring (Organized by retired NBA star Tim Duncan)
- Love for Love City (Organized by country recording artist Kenny Chesney)
If you’re able and want to volunteer to help, check out this link tweeted by the official USVI government account: