The St. John Community Foundation has announced the release of “The St. John Recovery Book: A Community Perspective on Hurricanes Irma and Maria.” The 112-page full-color book is a locally produced publication that delves into how the devastating 2017 hurricane season affected the island of St. John. All net profits from the book’s sale will be used for ongoing recovery and resiliency efforts, including support for development and programs of the foundation’s Business Alliance of St. John.
“Once power returned at our store, Freebird Creations, people would come in and constantly ask how we did during the storms,” said Long Term Economy Recovery Group Team Leader Barbara Hervey. “I still get questioned today, meaning I have to relive those unsettled emotions multiple times a day, which just continues the trauma. I came up with the idea of a book to help people understand what we were dealing with. Now, we have something tangible we can show visitors that tells the story of the storms’ aftermath. I hope it helps people understand our journey, and I hope it helps our community heal.”
Written and edited by freelance writer/editor Andrea Milam, “The St. John Recovery Book” focuses on how the storms affected various facets of island life, from communications and transportation to schools and government buildings and services. Residents share their personal survival stories, and the book features remembrances of two St. John residents who lost their lives at sea during the hurricanes.
“The St. John Recovery Book is so much more than just a book,” said Jon Eichner, St. John Community Foundation’s director of operations and interim executive director. “This project celebrates the survivors of ‘Irmaria,’ honors those lives lost and praises all the hands that worked tirelessly to build this island back to what it is today. It displays our resiliency, buoyancy and determination to persevere. It demonstrates the unity of our community and gives an idea of why we are called Love City.”
The stories are accompanied by images of devastation and inspiring moments of hope, captured by several island photographers and residents who were on the ground in the days before, during and after the storms. The book was designed by longtime resident and owner of St. John Printing + Design, Lee Stanciauskas.
“Immediately after the storms, everyone I came into contact with sought to connect with one another by sharing their experiences,” said Stanciauskas. “It was an emotional time full of tears, grief, and sometimes relief. When I was approached by SJCF to work on the book, I thought this was an opportunity to use my expertise as a graphic designer and printer to do something for St. John, to put together the stories and photos to share with those who experienced the storms firsthand and with those who watched anxiously from afar.”
“This was hands-down the most difficult project I’ve ever been a part of,” said Milam. “I had to jump head first into a painful subject I thought I’d neatly tucked away and left behind in the past, and I had to ask those who were here for the storms to do the same. People became emotional while sharing their stories with me, and many tears were shed as I wrote. But I am beyond proud of the finished product — an in-depth look at what St. John went through in 2017 that might help those who weren’t here to understand what we went through, while raising money for ongoing hurricane recovery.”
“The St. John Recovery Book: A Community Perspective on Hurricanes Irma and Maria” will retail at Freebird Creations, Pink Papaya, Papaya Cafe & Book Store, Bajo El Sol Gallery and Art Bar, Connections East, and St. John Community Foundation. The hard cover is available for $60 and the soft cover is $45. The book will also be available online at www.freebirdcreations.com and www.thestjohnfoundation.org.