After her adopted home of the U.S. Virgin Islands was battered by Hurricane Irma, a woman with connections to Arlington County is calling on others to donate to help the relief effort.
Victoria Lemmon grew up in Ashburn and her father and sister currently live and work in Arlington. She moved to the U.S. Virgin Islands two years ago when she graduated college and “started a life there, met amazing people who have done the same thing I did, people who started families, and families who relocated there to live the dream.”
She lives on St. John, the smallest of the three islands, which together with St. Thomas received the worst of the damage from the Category 5 storm.
More than half the homes on St. John have been destroyed, she said, along with 90 percent of the boats docked on the island, including houseboats. Four people were reported dead across the U.S. Virgin Islands; the power grid and other infrastructure was devastated and may take months to restore; and residents are in serious need of aid, which was slow to arrive after the hurricane passed.
“St. John is nicknamed ‘Love City’ due to the never-ending kindness, and passion we have for our island family and home,” Lemmon said. “Though things are looking up with more help being sent to the island, we need more miracles to help us rebuild.”
Basketball great and Virgin Islands native Tim Duncan has raised more than $2 million through his “21 US Virgin Island Relief Fund,” while country music superstar Kenny Chesney, whose home on St. John was destroyed by the storm, is collecting donations via a new foundation he set up. There are also efforts to collect donated supplies to send to the islands.
Lemmon said that with coverage of Irma focused on the U.S. mainland as it made its way towards Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands were “overlooked.”
We need way more media attention to bring in donations for the people who are there and running out of food and water, we need donations for chainsaws and tools to help clear the debris. We are begging for help and attention to these U.S. citizens that have been overlooked in the week since the storm, due to media describing the first US landfall of Irma to be Florida.
The media overlooking the Virgin Islands and placing their main and general concern with Florida has left St. John even more devastated because we went days with no attention or help, which started to provoke crime. Peoples whose homes were destroyed lost even more by looters, and guns were stolen from our customs building.
More scenes from the USVI, via Twitter:
— National Guard (@USNationalGuard) September 14, 2017
— Fairfax Fire/Rescue (@ffxfirerescue) September 13, 2017
— Ariah Parker (@Ariah1209) September 7, 2017
— dina pierce (@dfpierce64) September 8, 2017
Photos courtesy Victoria Lemmon