In September 1988, specifically on September 10, 1988 I married my now ex-husband Eric. We chose September 10 because it was the six month anniversary of the day we started dating. The wedding was fun and we had a good time. The following day, Sunday, we flew out of New York into Montego Bay, Jamaica. We had booked our honeymoon at the all-inclusive Sandals resort in Montego Bay. We arrived at the resort late, approximately 6 PM.
We checked into our room and were very pleased with it. We had dinner and then went into the dance room to see what was going on that night. There was a Bob Marley type performer and some karaoke, and then came the announcement. The hotel manager announced that the hurricane was headed toward the island and that everyone should stay in their room until Monday afternoon. Now the island had not been hit by a hurricane despite the many times hurricanes pass the island. Which is a good explanation for why the resort did nothing to prepare for a hurricane.
However Monday morning came and the winds began to whip up while the sky darkened and loomed. It was at this point that the staff directed every single guest to their room. The staff began to take all of the pool furniture and sink it in the many pools, which made a lot of sense so that they would not fly around with the heavy wind. The staff also sank all of the beach chairs into the pools. The winds continued to rip and blow and bash against our ocean front first floor windows.
The winds kicked up and held tight from about 8 AM until about 1 PM when there was a knock on our hotel room door. The management wanted everyone to leave the hotel immediately. We were informed that we would have 15 minutes to pack a bag with whatever essentials we needed and to meet in the main lobby. Prior to this they had told us to fill our bathtubs with water and to put our mattress up against the window wall. Well let me tell you something, when you were told that you have 15 minutes to take anything that is very important to you, at least in my case, your mind goes blank and you take all of the socks that you’ve packed and a few pair of underwear. Unfortunately we had put our passports and our money in the hotel safe which we were now told was in accessible due to the emergency. There were about 50 to 75 of us in the hotel lobby when we were told to come out front to the valet area where we would board three schoolbuses. The school buses were taking us, the guest of Sandals resort, further in land to the Hilton.
Trust me the Hilton had enough on their hands with their own clients and definitely did not want the responsibility of handling clients from an competitors facility. Nevertheless we all boarded the bus and rambled down the barely paved road where the wind was thrashing the trees and the reeds against the road, a stop sign was lifted from the ground and went flying across the road and the bus driver could barely see m because the rain was so heavy. When we got to the Hilton, the staff members that greeted us were very clear about not being happy to have this additional responsibility.
So they told us to just all sit in the lobby. All of us Sandals people sat in the lobby for about three hours as the storm word outside. The rain was pouring down hard. The rain was pouring so hard that a large puddle began to gather on the floor of the lobby. The water in the lobby slowly rose to my knees. Then the cardboard type ceiling just completely fell in throughout several several areas of the lobby. The ceiling tile just fell into the water. It was then that someone said you know there might be a downed electric line in this water. A group of us went over to the Hilton staff member and said you have to move us to another room or we make it electrocuted.
More sniffy face, but we were put into a banquet room without any windows. Soon the 50 to 75 of us began to perspire as well as several guests were so anxious that they threw up, and so the banquet room soon smelled like a rank locker room. We stayed in the banquet room until we heard the noise stop. And then several of us ventured out of the banquet room around the hotel to see what had transpired outside, to see if we could find any food or any beverages of any kind. The Hilton did not bother paying attention to what we were doing. They had enough to handle with the wreckage of their own hotel. The devastation outside was incredible and a deafening quiet. One thing was for certain there was no food or anything to drink with the exception of two things the Hilton hotel provided us clients from the Sandals resort with … pats of butter and warm Red Stripe beer which is the local beer of Jamaica. Let me tell you something when you are hungry those pats of butter taste really good. But when you are thirsty the beer does nothing for your thirst except to help you not give a crap about being thirsty anymore.
We were in the Hilton for four days. Some people broke into some of the vacant guestrooms at the Hilton and just slept on those beds. I slept in the banquet room. And then finally Sandals resort came back for us. We took a transport van group by group to the resort where we were told to gather our luggage and anything in the hotel safe and then get back in the van to proceed to the airport. All of this time of us Americans had been unable to call home. We had no way to let the people at home know that we were OK.
It was quite an experience. At one point when the winds were up to 140 miles an hour, I went outside on the balcony where part of the balcony handrail had blown off just to see and hear and feel the wind. It’s all just part of my journey and I’m glad for it regardless