This has not been an ordinary school year. By now you have received several communications from us giving a sense of the extraordinary challenges we have faced in the aftermath of Maria. We are enormously grateful to the many graduates and their families who have already reached out to provide support in a variety of ways. Thank you!
Just as our school and our families led many of the relief efforts for our neighboring islands after Irma, we have set the pace for recovery after Maria. We are already doing some things – in our classrooms, in our programs, in our infrastructure – that are better than before the storms. We look forward to building this momentum in the months ahead.
In the meantime, this issue of the Alumni News recognizes our Hugo-Maria warriors who have stared two devastating Cat-5s in the face and emerged victorious, enterprising alumni who have spearheaded a variety of relief efforts for St. Croix, and upcoming events.
GHCDS/CDS/GHS Hurricane Hugo/Maria Victors!
What was your first impression the morning after Hugo?
Annaly Guerra: I was grateful that it was over. The storm itself was terrifying and lasted for a very long time. When we could finally come out of the bathroom (the room we ran to when all of our windows started shattering), I was relieved to have made it through the storm. Then I went outside and saw our huge and ancient mahogany tree on the ground and our flamboyant tree on our roof through our broken windows. It looked like a bomb had been dropped.
Roger Summerhayes: The defoliation. I lived just a couple hundred yards East of CDS, and I remember seeing bare trees and homes erased from the hillsides to the north.
Jean Bishop: (After looking through a gap in the shutter)”Oh no, the neighbors are going to be so mad, our garage is all over their lawn!” (After walking around the inside of the house) Shocked to see that beams from houses above us had harpooned through our roof. During the storm, Jack had told me they were coconuts. I was also shocked there was not one blade of grass and that everything was brown.
Alma Castro-Nieves: Wow, my house is not the only one roofless! Secondly, wow, there is no green grass! Everything was brown and quiet! It was such a spooky Feeling!
Kiomie (Johansen) Pedrini: I was so thankful that my family and I were all together and in one piece. The shock of the wasteland we saw before us was surreal, but we were on the other side, and that is all that mattered.
Laurie Dunton: Everything around me for as far as I could see looked like a bomb went off.
What is your most prominent memory from Hugo?
Annaly Guerra: During the storm, my most prominent memory was running into the bathroom with mattresses covering us when our windows shattered and began flying at us. I remember having to check to see if my little sister was still breathing underneath the mattress that we put on top of her in case the bathroom windows blew in. I also remember my parents staying vigilant blocking the door and window in the bathroom all night long to protect us. After the storm, I remember people working together to rebuild and share resources. My neighbors owned a restaurant, so after the storm we ate delicious food that they cooked because no one had generators and it was all going to spoil. I also remember being so excited to come back to school and see my friends, even it it meant taking classes under tarps– and without power.
Roger Summerhayes: The calm of the hurricane’s eye (which lasted a half hour for us) and then watching anxiously as the roof flexed up and down during the second half of the storm.
Jean Bishop: The sounds that occurred throughout the storm stayed etched in my memory for years: howling, whistling, pounding, high speed train and the feeling in the atmosphere as the air pressure kept dropping. Then the eerie silence as the eye of the storm briefly passed over our house.
There are many other things that come to mind, such as shock and fear, disbelief at the looting, relief and gratitude when stateside companies came to help with power and the navy came to help, surprise at how happy the children were when we reopened school and had nursery through 6th grade in one room. A feeling of abandonment and isolation with no communication besides ham radios and the fact that our governor was MIA!
Alma Castro-Nieves: Going to Island Dairies before curfew to get COLD Guava Juice! You begin to really understand what the word parched means!
Kiomie (Johansen) Pedrini: A few weeks after the storm, we were able to make hand radio contact with my uncle in Puerto Rico, to let all our family there know, that we had made it through the storm. I remember him asking me what I wanted him to bring for me when he came to see us. In my mind, I did not believe that he would come “to visit” as the devastation made that an impossibility, so I shouted, chocolate ice cream! Two days later, using his military connections, my uncle arrived in a Hummer at our doorstep, with only a small cooler in his hands. It contained the most amazing gallon of melted chocolate ice cream I have EVER eaten.
Laurie Dunton: I distinctly remember hearing the sound of the first airplane flying overhead days after the storm.
What was your first impression the morning after Maria?
Annaly Guerra: I remember thinking that it was not as bad as Hugo. Houses were built better and the storm did not last as long, so many more people had roofs still. When I went by the GHCDS campus the day after the storm, I was so happy to see that the campus was hardly harmed at all. I thought the whole island must have been spared if our campus had made it through. Then I drove out West and saw all of the destruction. Although we were fortunate, a lot of the island was not. It will take a long time to rebuild.
Roger Summerhayes: See the desolation once again, but seeing so many roofs on and enjoying our new splendid view of St. Croix!
Jean Bishop: Relief that I didn’t hear the train, my roof stayed on and while the yard was a mess, there was still green. Glad that the storm wasn’t like “the longest night” of Hugo. Sadness that some people did lose their homes.
Alma Castro-Nieves: Wow, this is Hugo all over again!
Kiomie (Johansen) Pedrini: I was once again grateful that we were all together and in one piece. A little shocked at the damage we had sustained and that I could experience two Category 5 storms in my short lifetime. At the same time, a little less fearful of what would lie ahead… knowing that taking one day at a time, we would make it through and rebuild.
Laurie Dunton: Simply, thankful.
What is your most prominent memory from Maria?
Annaly Guerra: Coming to school and meeting other teachers to work on the campus. We knew it was important to get the school ready to go, and there was a real sense of solidarity.
Roger Summerhayes: Me and Ms. Baker holding onto the bars that kept our hurricane shutters closed– for four and a half hours!
Jean Bishop: I do not have the same kind of dreams. After Hugo I was traumatized and often woke up screaming. After Maria my dreams seem to be about all the things I have to do. Perhaps a feeling of being overwhelmed and frustrated that recovery has not been quicker, given it is almost 30 years later. In some ways I feel calmer knowing that things will work out, plants will grow and people will return. It has made me realize that a dependence on the internet for so many things (postal service, online banking, and accessing important websites) can be dangerous and that paper options should always be available.
Alma Castro-Nieves: The morning after, thanking God that my car was not crushed by our Mahogany Tree! But quite frankly, holding on to the front door of our home for hours to avoid it blowing away!
Kiomie (Johansen) Pedrini: During the storm: the sound of the roof blowing off and crashing, and texting possible show ideas with Michael, while we had signal. It was clear that we would have to drastically change our plans for the Fall Drama. After the storm: Bringing a cast and crew of 25 together and producing an amazing show “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria.” So very proud of everyone’s efforts!
Laurie Dunton: I worked through the storm and went without sleep for days.
Is there anything that you have learned from both experiences?
Annaly Guerra: Crucians know how to pull together when there is a crisis.
Roger Summerhayes: Material things don’t really matter. Kids are more flexible than adults. A hurricane brings out the best (or worst) in people, thankfully the former mostly.
Jean Bishop: Yes, it reconfirmed that in the end all the things we accumulate do not matter as much as the family and friends in our lives and that our basic needs are met. In the VI many basic needs are not adequately met at the best of times. It has highlighted the basic flaws in our infrastructure, which unless addressed, will continue to haunt the VI.
Alma Castro-Nieves: Yes, it’s amazing how resilient one can be in the face of tragedy!
Kiomie (Johansen) Pedrini: I am proud to be a Crucian. Material things don’t matter. Family and friends are what really matter. Human beings are resilient and basically good. I love my island home and plan to stay here!
Laurie Dunton: Patience & resilience!
Alumni Come to the Rescue!
Kevin Bidelspacher – CDS’ 90
Sarah (CDS’98) and Matt (CDS ’04) Ridgway
“Virgin Islands – Relief, Recover, Rebuild (VI-R3) Originally known as Irma Relief for our Sister Islands took a “boots on the ground” approach in order to supply food, water and relief goods as quickly as possible for the islands impacted by Hurricane Irma.
The day after Irma we were busy collecting donations and working with the Coast Guard to get clearance to take boats full of disaster relief… supplies over to our sister islands of St. Thomas and St. John. We executed the transport of relief supplies, evacuation of hurricane victims, housing of evacuees on St. Croix and complete evacuation to the US Mainland. All of these efforts were 100% volunteer based and crowd funded through Irma Relief for our Sister Islands GoFundMe account.
We cannot thank all the volunteers and donors enough for their time, money and energy. None of this would have been possible without them!
In the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria it became apparent the need for a non-government, non-profit organization that is focused not only on relief efforts but also on the recovery and rebuilding of the Virgin Islands after a catastrophic event. Thus, VI-R3 was formed with the intention of continuing to support these efforts within the Virgin Islands. VI-R3 was founded in hopes to be able to stay in place to respond immediately should the Virgin Islands experience another natural disaster in the future.
VI-R3 works with local Virgin Island businesses (as much as possible) to source supplies and services in order to help restart the local economy and provide employment to the people of the Virgin Islands.
The goal of VI-R3 is to continue to provide relief supplies as long as needed, facilitate recovery projects on each island that help to stabilize the community, and identify and support long-term rebuilding projects.”
Sydney Jones – CDS’ 08
Sydney Jones shared the following letter in her Facebook post in early November…
“Hi My name is Sydney Jones I am from St. Croix, USVI and I am working with a network of groups through out the united states but mainly in Florida, and directly with Paradise Freight to get supplies to the people of the USVI. We are not only aiming to help lead donations of supplies in the right direction but also allow people who may not have access to the general population donations to receive necessary items through friends and families by assisting with shipping to a specific individual.
Over the last few weeks the USVI has taken quite a hit, St. Croix was spared the worst with Irma and in turn the citizens of St. Croix stepped up to the plate and came to the rescue for their sister islands… unfortunately St. Croix was severely damaged in the next hurricane which was Maria a category 5. The island is devastated and many are with out homes and supplies.
Here is what we are doing:
-We have several People from St. Croix that are flying supplies home to the USVI from Florida and other states ( We are each planning to fly to STT and be picked up by boat. As of right now we are set to fly on Monday with 3 generators and roughly 600 lbs of supplies.)
-We have set up an Amazon Wishlist that will automatically be shipped to our shipping center and locally collected items that will be send to the general population in St. Croix. These Items are being sent to the Relief Stx group who already has a distribution process set up on island.
– We are helping Families and friends ship to individuals by doing a bulk shipment from Miami to St Croix. This allows people to ensure that their loved ones will receive the correct supplies that they specifically need. We really want to make sure that specific people such as elderly, diabetic, people without cars or that have specific allergies, and people with large families are able to get the supplies they need to the individual directly. I will be responsible for ensuring that the funds from this account go towards the shipments to St. Croix, USVI.
Jordan Pelovitz – CDS’ 07, helps Library’s HATCH Makerspace Celebrate Grand Opening Of Its New Location
HATCH – On Sunday, October 1, the Watertown Free Public Library’s HATCH makerspace held its grand re-opening at its new location. Originally located in the Arsenal Project, the remodeling of that property caused HATCH to find a new home. After several months of searching, HATCH moved into the Residence at Watertown Square.