Remembering Fabian – A Decade On

Ten Year Anniversary of Fabian

Today marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Fabian, certainly the most destructive storm to have hit Bermuda in my lifetime, and one that cost four lives.

In light of that, I thought I’d offer some of my memories and reflections from that time.

In the Army

I was a Regimental soldier at the time.

It was my first year of the Regiment; I’d been unexpectedly drafted and attended Boot Camp in January 2003.

I say unexpected because I had been living in Canada until December, and I hadn’t expected to return to Bermuda when I did, and when I did I certainly wasn’t expecting to attend Boot Camp.  However, somehow, the Regiment found out that I was back on island, and I no longer had university deferment.

I learned I was going to Boot Camp (or face arrest) perhaps a week or two before Boot Camp – other soldiers had known for a couple months they were going, had time to adjust to it and get some admin and other things out of the way – so my Boot Camp experience wasn’t exactly as smooth as others.

However, I made do, and the Regiment gave me a helping hand, employing me part-time (in addition to regular duties) until I could secure full-time employment in late April – and for that I remain grateful.

I also decided to make the best of the situation, and volunteered for the Corporals Cadre – admittedly partly because I knew it meant a trip for additional training to Canada, giving me the opportunity to see my then partner, who was still in Toronto.

The Storm

As the realisation dawned on us that we were going to be hit by Fabian the Regiment asked for volunteers from amongst the Corporals Cadre to form an early response team – to wait out the hurricane at Warwick Camp, be available to respond to emergencies overnight and to be the first out there clearing main routes.

I was… reluctant, shall we say, to be part of that volunteer group, as was others.  I don’t think anyone necessarily ‘volunteered’ so much as arguments were made about who couldn’t (family commitments, etc) stay the night, and those who had no reason of the like not to do so ended up as the volunteers.

I was one of those who subsequently spent the night at Warwick Camp.

It was eventful, I remember a door being blown of its hinges somewhere and flying across the square.  A lot of card games, some reading, conversations, a lot of listening to the storm and peering out the windows into the dark.

While we were in shifts – some sleeping, some preparing, some ‘on call’ for call-outs into the storm (I almost got sent out to deal with a candle-induced fire, but the fire-service dealt with it before we were needed) – I don’t think many of us actually slept.  Too wound up about what daylight would bring.

Dawn

We had already been broken down into teams the night before, so we all new what we were doing.

My team set out to the east, along South Shore, clearing one lane of traffic to expedite emergency vehicles and the embodiment of the rest of the Regiment.

I remember my team got to just by Southlands, right by the what, I think, was PawPaws, now Swizzle Inn Warwick.  I remember it because a crowd had gathered to watch us hack away at fallen casuarinas and other trees that were obstructing the road.

My team was still working on this blockage, along with another team, when a Regimental jeep rolled up and pulled my team away.  We clambered onto the jeep and quickly – with a few stops to clear enough of the roads to let the jeep through – sped off to the Deputy Governors house, by the Arboretum.

While we protested that there were somewhat more pressing issues to deal with than clearing the Deputy (and Acting) Governor’s drive (we figured he could walk up to Prospect to join the EMO if needed), we did what we were told.

It was as we were finishing that job that we got a radio call from the east.  We were told it was urgent and to go east immediately.

We finished up quickly, piled back into the jeep and sped off, stopping only briefly on Berry Hill to quickly clear some access to the hospital, and again by Francis Patton to deal with a fallen utility pole.

And then we reached our ordered destination, the Causeway.

Devastation

We couldn’t believe the sight that greeted us.  The Causeway, all smashed up, looking in places like those scenes from earthquakes in the movies, with big cracks and uneven fractured surfaces.

An AP file aerial photo of the Causeway after Fabian.

An AP file aerial photo of the Causeway after Fabian.

We weren’t the first ‘authorities’ there.  There were marine police searching the waters (we didn’t know why at first), and there were a couple of police there too.

I remember the situation was a bit confused at first, and I remember, for some reason, being one of the few soldiers to go halfway along the ruined causeway, to that circular extension there, where we worked out a plan of action with everyone.

Our job was to stop people walking along the ruins, while also moving some of the rubble out of the way.

As the crowds grew and the media showed up to what we had now learned to be a very sensitive scene, my team of soldiers decided to use our emergency powers and enforced a no-go area, pushing (well, gently encouraging) the public back to Swizzle Inn.  I remember an intrepid media team trying to get through our cordon through the Walshingham trails, and we almost arrested them.

Apocalyptic

It was around this time that the US Coast Guard plane began flying overhead.

The sound of its engines, the sight of it flying overhead while we watched, surrounded by the devastation of the Causeway, it was very eerie, in the ‘hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck’ kind of way.

I don’t remember too much from then on.  I vaguely recall being based at the Causeway most of the day, helping coordinate the operations there.  I remember being thirsty, and hot.

I remember a lot about the following days, but none were as memorable as arriving at the Causeway that morning.

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