When your life takes a direct hit

Reporting on impacts of Hurricane Irma in the George Brown community

2017 was definitely the year of natural disasters in different parts of the world.
Mexico suffered from earthquakes that killed hundreds while floods devastated parts of Bangladesh, India and Nepal killing at least 1,200 people. Texas and Louisiana were slammed by Hurricane Harvey, which killed 82 people and caused a reported $180 billion in damages.  

But it was Hurricane Irma, which devastated several countries in the Caribbean, that touched the George Brown College (GBC) community.

In September I interviewed the former GBC clubs co-ordinator, Cameron Wathey. The same week that Wathey was going to leave his job and life in Toronto to go back to his family home in St. Martin in the Caribbean, to work in his family business, the island took a direct hit from Irma

I spoke with Wathey three days after the disaster happened and I could feel how desperate he was about the situation. He told me that his family lost their house, the business, and they were sleeping at a friend’s house. 

Several times his voice faltered on the phone, which made me wonder if he was crying. It was delicate to ask how he was feeling and to hear him vent.

“Everybody is in panic, afraid,” he said. “Nobody knows what to do. I’m hopeful for my family, but I’m extremely sick to my stomach because there is limited food.”  

While I was speaking with him, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d do if this happened with me.

In November, reporter-editor Meng Ma, wrote a story about Masini McDermott, a GBC staff member and former student with family members who made homeless by Irma. McDermott needed to take two of her aunts and their children into her apartment in Toronto, where they have been staying since Oct. 7. 

McDermott also organized and performed at a benefit concert for a relief effort for the islands Tortola, Dominica and Anguilla. 

I was also really happy to report that even more members of the George Brown community were banding together to help with Hurricane Irma relief efforts, when SafeWalk and SXM Irma Relief ran a campaign to collect donated supplies to send to St. Marten.

Covering how Irma impacted the GBC community gave me the opportunity to reflect on how grateful I am to have my family and friends safe in my home country, Brazil.


Lidianny Botto joined The Dialog as a reporter-editor in August 2017.


When your life takes a direct hit