Daily Egyptian

Former SIU student’s home destroyed by Hurricane Irma

Liz+Hankins+and+James+Kiernan%2C+of+North+Lauderdale%2C+fill+trash+bags+with+sand+on+Pompano+Beach+in+preparation+for+Hurricane+Irma+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+8%2C+2017.+%28Amy+Beth+Bennett+%2FSun+Sentinel%2FTNS%29%0ASOUTH+FLORIDA+OUT%3B+NO+MAGS%3B+NO+SALES%3B+NO+INTERNET%3B+NO+TV
Liz Hankins and James Kiernan, of North Lauderdale, fill trash bags with sand on Pompano Beach in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Amy Beth Bennett /Sun Sentinel/TNS)
SOUTH FLORIDA OUT; NO MAGS; NO SALES; NO INTERNET; NO TV

Liz Hankins and James Kiernan, of North Lauderdale, fill trash bags with sand on Pompano Beach in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Amy Beth Bennett /Sun Sentinel/TNS) SOUTH FLORIDA OUT; NO MAGS; NO SALES; NO INTERNET; NO TV

TNS

TNS

Liz Hankins and James Kiernan, of North Lauderdale, fill trash bags with sand on Pompano Beach in preparation for Hurricane Irma on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017. (Amy Beth Bennett /Sun Sentinel/TNS) SOUTH FLORIDA OUT; NO MAGS; NO SALES; NO INTERNET; NO TV

By Marnie Leonard

Eric Boyer watched from afar as his home was destroyed by Hurricane Irma.

Boyer studied radio-TV at SIU from 1987 to 1989 before leaving to take a job at a television station in Baltimore.

Thirteen years ago, during a three-month vacation in the Caribbean island of St. Martin, he was offered a job at the American rock radio station Island 92. He’s been on the island ever since.

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During the summer months, Boyer works as a freelancer in the television industry. He was in New York City when Irma ripped through the island of nearly 75,000 people, killing at least eight and causing an estimated $100 million in damages.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Boyer said. “I was walking around a bit numb, I just didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t contact anybody, I had no information.” 

Boyer, who grew up in western Maryland and is now a permanent resident of St. Martin, said his house is unlivable.

As the eye of the Category-5 storm passed through the Caribbean, winds reached up to 175 miles per hour, according to the National Weather Service.

Boyer said the tiles were blown off his house and two glass sliding doors outside of his living room were blasted inside.

“The hurricane got into my house and trashed all my furniture, everything,” Boyer said.

He said the wind-blown tiles crashed through his upstairs window, letting wind inside and creating a giant pressure pocket that caused the bathroom wall to explode into his upstairs bedroom. The entire upper floor is full of water, he added.

Hurricane Jose is now heading for the islands already ravaged by Irma. It is strengthening, according to the National Hurricane Center, and is now a Category-4 storm.

Because of Irma, the island is already 95 percent damaged or destroyed, according to local officials. Boyer said his house, and all of St. Martin, can’t take anymore.

“My roof is probably going to blow away, that’s how damaged it was,” Boyer said. “So fingers are crossed that Jose misses us.”

Boyer is part-owner of two radio stations, one in St. Martin and one in Anguilla, an island about 11 miles away.

The St. Martin station lost satellite dishes and antennas and sustained various other damages, Boyer said.

By Friday afternoon, he still had not heard word from the station in Anguilla.

“We don’t know what has survived over there,” he said.

Boyer said the hurricane caused tens of thousands of dollars in damages to his personal property and radio stations.

“And we got off pretty easy compared to a lot of the people on that island I’ve been talking to,” Boyer said.

Though Boyer has no family living on the island, he said the hardest part was not knowing if his friends were okay.

“At this point, I’ve heard from 90 percent of my friends … or I’ve heard from third parties that they’re okay,” Boyer said. “But in the immediate aftermath,  I was really, really nervous.” 

Though the island is waiting with bated breath to see if it will be struck again by Jose, Boyer said the community has already been coming together in Irma’s wake.

“Years — it’ll take years before we’re back,” Boyer said. “But we’re known as the Friendly Island, and the true St. Martiners, they’re pulling together and helping each other.”

Resorts and restaurants have been letting people stay free of charge and supplying food and water to the storm’s victims, he said.

Boyer said anyone who wants to help should donate to the St. Martin Red Cross or check the Island 92 Facebook page, which he is updating regularly with links to reputable fundraisers.
Air traffic is currently completely shut down to and from the island, Boyer said, and he is still in New York City waiting for the chance to get back home.

“As soon as they have a flight available for me, I will get back to the island,” Boyer said.  “When I moved to St. Martin, I added ten years to my life — it’s paradise. Knowing that, I will go back. We all will.”

Campus editor Marnie Leonard can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @marsuzleo.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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