Category 5 winds ripped through the open windows of a home in the Abaco Islands. Outside, floodwaters surged. Portions of the roof had already blown away.
"We need assistance fast," a man inside the house said. "God almighty, pray for us. We can't get down — it's a two-story structure. The door is shut."
Florida state Rep. Shevrin Jones, who represents parts of Broward County, posted the video last night depicting relatives on his father's side of the family trapped inside a house in the Bahamas.
"My family, they're riding the storm out," he told New Times. At last word in the group WhatsApp chat, his relatives said the lights had gone out and there was lots of damage, but no one had been physically harmed.
"I just told them to keep texting me, texting the group," Jones said.
Bahamians were some of the first settlers in Miami, and today South Florida has the largest population of Bahamian-Americans in the United States. As Hurricane Dorian continues to batter the Bahamas, those in Miami's Bahamian community have been worriedly texting and calling family members in the island nation for updates.
Vanaya Bredy, a Bahamian-born community activist, is still waiting to hear from a 95-year-old relative and his 8-month-old grandchild, who were riding out the hurricane in a car in the Abacos after the roof of their home came off.
"They were trying to get to higher ground," Bredy says. "I have not heard from them after yesterday evening."
Bredy is working with fellow Bahamian activists Valencia Gunder and Ruban Roberts to send donations to the Bahamas as soon as possible. The group is collecting toiletries, diapers, first-aid items, nonperishable foods, water, generators, and other supplies at the Miami-Dade Community Emergency Operations Center at 5120 NW 24th Ave. Online donations are also being accepted at mthsmile.com.
"We're working together as Bahamians to try to get in touch with people in our contacts and our community for help getting donated items and sending them off," Bredy says. "We have a hangar here ready to go tomorrow, so we can take over some of the first donated items and go to Abaco, Marsh Harbour."
Churches in Coconut Grove, which has a rich Bahamian history, are also working with the City of Miami and Commissioner Ken Russell's office to send supplies to the Bahamas. Rev. Nathaniel Robinson of Greater St. Paul AME says his church at 3680 Thomas Ave. will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this week to accept donations.
"Our church was founded by Bahamian descendants, and many of their children and grandchildren are still members of our congregation. It just makes sense for us to be part of relief efforts," he says.
With Dorian still churning in the Atlantic, parishioners at the church have been glued to their phones for updates from family members who were unable to evacuate the country.
"Many of our folks have been able to make contact with their relatives; some have not. So some are still waiting to hear what's going on," Robinson says. "[There's] a lot of anxiety, but we're hopeful no loss of life."
Christ Episcopal Church, another Coconut Grove parish, is led by Bahamian priest Father Jonathan Archer. Like Greater St. Paul AME, Archer's church, at 3481 Hibiscus St., is also accepting supplies for the City of Miami's donation drive from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
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"We've always been there to support the Bahamian people and those who came over to build this community of Coconut Grove," Archer says. "The links are still very, very strong, so we are more than happy to do that."
As of now, Representative Jones says he is hopeful the Florida Legislature will find ways to support the Bahamas, which he calls a "next-door neighbor" to the Sunshine State.
"Florida has deep roots with constituents who live here who are either descendants of the Bahamas or individuals who have family over in the Bahamas," Jones says. "I think the governor and Legislature will look at ways we can be of assistance."
Find more information about where to send donations to the Bahamas here.