Even before the break of dawn which never arrived on the morning of November 1, 1961, everyone knew that Hurricane Hattie had left severe repercussions. And the villagers were eager to know. It was still raining hard at about seven that morning when my dad and a whole lot of neighborhood villagers set forth to discover the unwanted. Back Street (Pescador Drive) was covered with rubbles, thatch leaves, some sheets of zinc, large branches and several small thatch houses leaning on the ground, half inside their yards and the other half on the street. Front Street (Barrier Reef Dr.) looked more discouraging. There were tons of debris from wooden buildings and from the sea. Some houses had completely collapsed and others could only be recognized by their roofs which were lying in the middle of the street. However, the beach was a disheartening different scenario. Instead of having tons of rubble, which would have been welcome, it was one barren large stretch of sand with waves still rolling up furiously as high up as where the houses once stood. The Ayuso vacation home (Spindrift Building now) was miraculously standing up on eight-foot posts with waves lashing up on its floor. Just ahead, the 75-foot long primary school had disappeared, but the entire roof was leaning against two coconut trees right inside the Police Station yard. And just further ahead, the Catholic Church was also standing on its posts but without any verandah nor steps- three small landmarks on the beach that now looked like a barren cemetery.
The rest of that first day of November, the villagers lamented their sorrows and consoled each other as they picked up from all over some belongings that still looked usable- a wooden window here and there, part of a wall or roof or the remnants of a bed, hammock or clothes.
Three days after the monster, there was no communication to the mainland by boat or by radio because they were all destroyed. The villagers were beginning to worry for food. Water which was running short and the shallow water wells that used to provide drinking water were all salty. Good Heavens, late that evening the frightening noise of a helicopter stirred up a commotion as it hovered overhead and then landed on the beach in front of the police station. Whatever the British pilot and soldiers spoke with the village chairman, Mr. Fido Nuñez, is unknown, but the next day, bright and early two helicopters landed at the same spot and unloaded a lot of stuff at the police station. Thereafter the word went around about relief provisions and people made lines to receive gallons of water, bagfuls of flour, powered mild, rice, several canned goods and powdered egg. Incidentally the villagers found it amusing to simply mix the powder with some water and ended up with some nutritious and delicious omelets. With full stomachs, the worry was over.
For the next few weeks and months the villagers continued with the cleaning, patching up of small houses and re-building complete houses with lumber and zinc picked up here and there. Some houses when complete were already painted but with a kaleidoscope of colors. Some fearful and discouraged villagers refused to build back on the beach and opted for back street not knowing that ten years later government was to acquire the entire village and give clear titles to everyone. But happily they reconstructed their boats, fish traps, lobster pats, water reservoirs and wells. Even the R.C. School commenced classes in the church building that miraculously remained standing. And thus San Pedro slowly but steadily bounced back from a catastrophic monster hurricane that devoured it to pieces twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist