The Things We Lost in the Storm

Now, THIS is phenomenal storytelling and a tale of turning such tragedy into an inspiration -wow! #AnguillaStrong

Vanessa Explains...

There used to be a time when losing your roof during a hurricane in Anguilla was an anomaly. Anguilla (which rhymes with vanilla) is a small, little-known island but, as the northernmost Leeward, built with the threatening shadow of a heavy storm in mind. As such, hurricanes which would wreak havoc in other islands or the US mainland rarely blow over our houses or take our roofs. I remember during Hurricane Lenny when someone in our village actually lost their roof. Everyone went out to look at the tragedy, offering assistance to the distraught family and listening with rapture to the story of what it was like for the hurricane to go with the roof. When I meet people in the shop now, in this post-Hurricane-Irma life, they greet me with “Vanessa, what the storm do you?” and I respond, “We lost our roof.” Half the time the person…

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Mexico City image shot from the

Torre Latinamericana building

Its central location, height (188 m or 597 ft; 44 stories) and history make it one of the city’s most important landmarks. It is also widely recognized internationally as an engineering and architectural landmark since it was the world’s first major skyscraper successfully built on highly active seismic land. The old skyscraper withstood the 1985 Mexico City earthquake without damage – Wikipedia

Tragically, on the anniversary of 1985’s deadly earthquake, Mexico City shook wildly again today, September 19, 2017.  Gratefully, in the last year, I have had the pleasure of visiting Mexico City on three different occasions, and I am forever fascinated by its people, its food, and ironically, like the irony of today’s quake’s timing, I am in awe of its architecture which is shaped by its having been shaken.

Mexico City


¡Viva México!



Last night I read that Anguilla was in the direct path of Category 5 Hurricane Irma.  The hurricane’s eye hit the island early this morning. With wind speeds clocked at 185+ mph and surf surges 7-11′, Hurricane Irma left a catastrophic mark on this tranquil, beloved island.


“The Edge,” Shoal Bay East



Walkway to the beach, Shoal Bay Villas



Anguilla, “Tranquility Wrapped in Blue”



Anguilla gets my vote for “Best Beach in the World”


Being a travel photographer, I never leave a location without being affected or without my heartstrings being tugged. It’s as if the people and place are permanently cataloged in my mind – the smells, the sounds, the tastes, the sights and the feelings never die. The senses are reintroduced through the saved imagery, and I feel a closeness.  Visiting my photo archives last night, I prepared for the storm by looking through my favorite Anguilla images.  I didn’t have to hide from the incoming, ferocious storm, brace myself against deadly winds, secure my house from rising flood waters or see torn-off roofs, downed trees or snapped-in-two power lines. Instead, securely inside my house, 3200 miles away, I worried about what Anguillians would face in the morning, and with this kindred spiritedness, I felt as if I was right next door to my neighbor.

Post-Irma: The Pumphouse, my favorite Sandy Ground, Anguilla hang-out


This morning, while Hurricane Irma pummeled Anguilla, I attended my Wednesday workout class in Arizona.  The motivational topic was perspective.

When you see a field of dandelions, do you think,

a bunch of weeds 

or do you think,

a bunch of wishes?

No matter where we go in the world, we all desire shelter – a place to retreat to have safety and security, and when our shelter is threatened or wiped-out, we are lost – where do we go? what do we do?

How do we survive?

We grieve for what was and celebrate when the sun comes out.

– dandelions grow like crazy when the sun’s out –

Focusing on rebuilding the beauty

if we didn’t lose our lives.


Pick at endless weeds or choose to make innumerable wishes –

Anguillians are strong, gracious, and positive-thinking, and I’m fairly certain they will choose the latter




Words Not Weapons


After hearing of the terrorist attack in Barcelona, I contacted my German friend, Margrit.

Thirty-six years ago in 1981, my mother and father met Margrit’s parents at a wine festival in Margrit’s hometown, Deidesheim, Germany.  Our two sets of parents shared the ages of their children, and they discovered they had two girls approximately the same age, Margrit and me. Our parents exchanged addresses, and Margrit and I became pen pals.

Our letters tied us together. Even after the tech revolution, we continued to write. Margrit and I’ve adjusted our writing. We still both prefer a handwritten letter, and I could pick Margrit’s beautiful script out of a line-up for sure!  Our letters aren’t as frequent, but with the tech revolution, we’re able to follow each other on Facebook and share photos via messenger. Margrit and I’ve celebrated world events, like the downfall of the Berlin Wall, and we’ve denounced horrors, like the despicable acts of 9.11.

Inspiring this blog entry is Margrit’s and my time on Las Ramblas, celebrating our 25th friendship anniversary in June 2009. Margrit and I walked side-by-side down the peaceful Boulevard, enjoying the summer evening. We people-watched, listened to street musicians and chose a place to stop for a ‘tres bier Grazie.’ 


We had our photo taken with a Las Ramblas street performer, a larger-than-life gargoyle, who while the camera clicked, leaned in for a kiss, whispering Catalan into my ear. Margrit and I laughed about the gargoyle’s forwardness, and in the years to come, the photo reminded Margrit and me of our harmless, fun-loving encounter with the Gargoyle on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.

The photo’s taken during a time when peacefulness accompanied most traveling Westerners.  A time when terrorists weren’t walking into crowded tourist areas with bombs strapped to their backs. A time when people rented cars to get to a destination not to kill people. A time when we guarded our wallets against pickpocketers but didn’t fear for our lives when having coffee or tea in a city square.


On Thursday, August 17th, the day of terror on Las Ramblas,  I contacted Margrit on WhatsApp. I sent her the news headliner and referenced our 2009 photo:

our moment with the gargoyle is on my mind😩😢

And three days later – quicker than a letter traveling over the Atlantic but slower than pressing send on a social media message or an international texting app – I received Margrit’s response.

Happiness and tragedy are so close together 🙁

A van didn’t bloodily extinguish our lives on Las Ramblas when we were there.  Instead, we had a trustworthy interaction with a gargoyle.  To us, Las Ramblas is a place of inside-jokes and laughter, and now I can’t help but cringe thinking about what Las Ramblas elicits in those who suffered pain, personal loss, and unbearable heartache because of a heinous, despicable crime.

Friends, this isn’t only Barcelona’s terror, this is our world’s worst nightmare unfolding in front of our eyes – the disregard for human life and the desensitization toward violence are crippling our world.

Let’s stop the madness!



Monsters exist

But thankfully, so do pen pals –

To who and what are you paying attention?  Good or evil?

A pen pal uses words not weapons to write a life story.

The world should take a page out of a pen pal’s book.

Remember the adage, ‘sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me?’

My hope is within my lifetime, words connect us again, not ill-willed reactions, violent acts or deliberate tragedy.

One can hope and plot our comeback –

One kind word at a time.



May you find your peace again, Barcelona!