(Photo Credit: Ahreefa Bacchus/BVI Platinum News)
Hurricane Irma and the aftermath was a traumatic occurrence for most persons who experienced the disaster. Many struggled to grapple with the loss of their homes, and the destruction around them.
However, for some, there was not much time to focus on personal losses, as they whisked off to serve the people.
Officers attached to the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF) had to respond to calls for help from persons trapped in buildings, while others had to tackle the issue of looting that took place during the aftermath.
The accounts of some of these officers have officially been gathered and compiled in a book written by Police Communication Officer, Ms. Diane Drayton, who shared that the common recollection of most officers is that of facing the horror that was Hurricane Irma.
Her book, ‘Irma, A RVIPF Perspective’ was officially launched on May 8, and is a compilation of the recollection and stories of different officers who served the Territory through and in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Ms. Drayton, who has been the force’s Communication Officer for the past 11 years, shared that the idea for the book was pitched to her by Commissioner of Police, Mr. Michael Matthews. However, she initially had doubts.
“To be brutally honest, after Irma, I didn’t want anything else to do with Irma. I didn’t even want to hear anything else about Irma,” she stated.
“It was painstaking, but it was fruitful. It was really important that it be documented for the RVIPF, for the Territory as a whole, to hear what these officers did to protect this Territory,” she added.
Asked about the collective description of the hurricane by officers, Ms. Drayton stated, “The general view…horror. They certainly didn’t expect, but what was impacting was that they were actually serving as everything was crumbling around them. And if you read some of the accounts, their families were apart from them.
As it relates to the looting, she said that some of the officers “had come to expect some level, it’s just that they did not expect that level.”
“I mean while looking at persons [looting], there were other people screaming for help to get out of buildings because some of them, the staircase had crumbled,” she stated.
Ms. Drayton disclosed that while this is her first published work, it has encouraged her to write more.
Meanwhile, addressing those gathered for the book launch, Commissioner Matthews said that it is important that the police force keeps records “when something of this catastrophic nature occurs in the community.”
“September 6, 2017 will forever be in my mind. Never forgotten, never expected to go through anything like that in my life,” he stated, adding, “So, I felt there was a need for the force to collect these stories.”
“Chapter six of the book is entitled “The high price of service,” the Commissioner related, revealing, “This story is probably the one for me that sums up the emotion.”
That chapter speaks of a female officer’s account of her experiences with Irma. The officer, who is a mother, had to work on the day that Irma hit.
“When she managed to get from the police station to her home to make sure her children were alright, when you get to the line that talks about her youngest son staring at her and saying , “you left us here to die,” the Commissioner shared.
The book, which was funded by the Police Welfare Association, has many other similar stories. It was disclosed that all proceeds will be returned to the Association.