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Arts Features

Having survived Irma, a singer chronicles her ordeal

Soprano Laura Strickling won the Rochester Oratorio Society's 2015 Rochester Classical Idol Competition, including the Audience Favorite Prize

Laura Strickling and family are okay.  But she says just thinking about the potential impact of Hurricane Jose turns her stomach.   The First Prize winner in Rochester's 2015 Classical Idol Competition, Strickling lives in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, with her husband, a lawyer, and one year-old daughter.  She has asked her story be shared in order to keep a spotlight on the suffering in her community. 

Early Saturday morning, September 9th, she described her current situation on social media:

"Day 2, After #HurricaneIrma

I'm sorry for the long post. The internet does not work during the day. The baby woke up at 4:30 AM and it looks like I'm going to be able to put a post up, so I'm going to flood you with my thoughts.

First, and most important: PLEASE help us keep the USVI in the news. Tweet/call your local media and tell them to cover what's going on here. Our friends and neighbors desperately need help. Please don't let the world forget about us. #KeepUSVIinthenews

Current residents of our house: My Husband, Me, and 1 year old Elizabeth. Our beloved neighbor Connie Waddell (Technically she's in her own apartment on the other side of this cement wall, but she's one of us). Matt and Adrien Reinhardt and their 1 year old son Weston. We were worried that their house wouldn't survive the storm, so they came to ride it out with us and we're going to stick together, pooling resources and energy.

We are completely disconnected from information. We do not have a radio. We had more cellular data connection during the worst parts of the hurricane than we have since we woke up the morning After. Not having information is demoralizing and disorienting. My sister Rebekah Dixon, Anne Louise Taylor, and Angelica Plagemann Charak have been texting me every scrap of USVI news they see in the media and it has been a lifeline for me. I'll get no service for hours and then a rush of texts come through with info like a breathe of fresh air. THANK YOU, dear ones!

Nano Charlery stopped by our house today to say hi and I'm not sure I've ever been happier to see someone. She brought news from other parts of the island.

Credit Laura Strickling
Laura is catching rainwater to wash baby bottles.

Water, water, water, water. We don't know how long we're going to need to depend solely on the water we've got on our property, so I'm overthinking the management of every drop we have. Hoping for the best, planning for the worst. Consider the water you use every day without even thinking about it. It's a LOT of water. Even washing our hands is a luxury.

Things I am grateful for today:
- The people in this house
- A ROOF!!!!!!!
- battery-operated lanterns
- batteries
- french press coffee
- baby wipes

I keep daydreaming about the things I passed by in the store, but didn't grab because, "I'm overreacting, and we can't afford to spend $500 on storm prep materials."

- About 10 times more water. I kept reading "3 gallons per day per person" and thought that was ridiculous. It is not ridiculous. It's literally the baseline amount.
- A simple generator for charging our phones and electric lanterns.
- A power outlet adapter for our car "cigarette lighter" charger port. (Luckily our friends who are staying with us have one!)
- 5 large bottles of Purell. I got one and it's not going to last long because we are trying not to use water to wash our hands).
- Three industrial sized boxes of baby wipes (I bought one) - they're proving ridiculously useful, but we need to be more conservative with them as well, because baby butts need to be wiped for and it would be awful if we ran out.
- Paper plates. Washing dishes is water-expensive and I loathe every drop we use to do it.
- Non-perishable food. We have a lot. Is it enough? I think so. I hope so.
- COFFEE. We've only got enough for a couple more days. I know it's a small thing, but I'm really going to miss it.

Of course all of these things would be luxuries and we have friends who lost everything in this storm. No amount of prep can help you if your house blows away. My heart aches worrying for them.

Today we ate like kings, trying to use the last of what survived the fridge/freezer. Taylor whipped up a meal any restaurant would have been proud of. The irony of course is that none of us are hungry. We're tired. We're worried. We're working hard.

We STINK. All of us. It's hot and we're sweaty. Some of us took "showers" in the rain the day after the hurricane, and after 12 hours in that windowless, airless, hot basement, it felt like heaven. We gave the babies their first full baths since the hurricane yesterday and I couldn't stop pressing my nose into E's hair because it smelled SO good. Honest Orange Vanilla baby shampoo FTW.

Credit Laura Strickling
After Irma smashed power lines and trees, the Stricklings could not leave their driveway.

Hurricane José. Another hurricane. ANOTHER HURRICANE. I will never think of wind in the same way. We're expected to miss the brunt of José but I can't help but fret. FRET is a silly-sounding, passé word, but it's the right word. I don't want to do another hurricane. Not ever. And we might have to do it again tomorrow.

This post sounds serious because what we are going through is very serious, but group morale is still high because we have each other. I am so thankful for these wonderful friends. Everyone is working hard and everyone is laughing hard. And since we have these sweet babies in our arms, what more do we really need?

More information when we have it. More FB updates when we can get them through."

- Laura Strickling

Since writing that, she's posted that Cyril E. King airport in St. Thomas is being prepared to accept military shipments of relief supplies and personnel later today (9/9.)  Officials are saying "it is among the top priorities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the local government to open the air bridge that would support the needs of hurricane victims on St. Thomas, St. John and Water Island."