GBC staff member takes in family after Hurricane Irma

The aftermath of the Category 5 storm was a period of shock, loss and strength for Masini McDermott and her family


It was just after a vacation in Tortola, part of the British Virgin Islands (BVI), when Masini McDermott heard the announcement about Hurricane Irma. When the Category 5 storm hit the Caribbean in early September, McDermott knew she had to take immediate action.

On the evening of Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma approached the BVI with winds that gusted up to 330 km/h with up to 500 mm of rainfall, according to a report released by the BVI government.

About 70 per cent of all structures on the islands were either lost or damaged according to the BVI government on Sep. 27. This included the home of Najla Davis, McDermott’s aunt.

McDermott took two of her aunts and their children into her apartment in Toronto, where they have been staying since Oct. 7.

“It’s hard to get them to leave home, they’re very loyal to their island,” McDermott said. “Now there’s an eight-person household in my two bedroom apartment.”

Davis worked for Scrub Island Resorts, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, in BVI, before it was destroyed.

“A lot of the restaurants and bars on the beaches are all gone, some of our keys have disappeared, they are underwater,” said Davis.

“My aunt and her son are staying for now and have intentions to go back,” said McDermott. “It’s crazy because I’m thinking, it’s going to take years for you to go back, to be financially okay and just okay in general, but that’s their home.”

After the storm, Davis took a suitcase and her two-year old son with her to Toronto, and left her boyfriend and shattered home behind on Tortola.

“The apartment was flooded, it has no roof, and it keeps raining and there’s mould,” said Davis. “It was hard, but it was a decision that had to be made, not only for our son, but for our health and for our unborn child.”

Meanwhile, McDermott was busy organizing a benefit concert in Toronto. On Oct. 22 the We Will Rise Together concert raised money for a relief effort for the islands Tortola, Dominica and Anguilla.

“I believe music is a universal language and I believe it can really help and raise awareness to a lot of causes,” said McDermott.

Despite the damage and loss, Davis still has hope for the future.

“We’re a very strong culture and we’re not lazy,” said Davis. “We’re willing to roll up our sleeves and work.”

McDermott said that the family is stable so far. They maintain open lines of communication with constant check-ins, which she said “has really shown that we really care about each other.”

In the meantime, Davis continues to miss home.

“I miss seeing green grass and trees, coming home from work, cooking a meal, having a movie night, seeing my boyfriend and son, going to the park with my nieces and nephews, I just want to get back to my life.”

McDermott is still taking donations for relief. People can drop by the student life office at GBC’s St. James A Building in room B130.

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GBC staff member takes in family after Hurricane Irma