Today, our hearts are heavy but hopeful. 

As we put together the pieces of our lives four years later, all around us we see the sombre reminders of the storm that changed our lives forever.  

We also see the hallmarks of progress – a testament to  the courage and resilience of Abaconians as you continue to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally from the crises of the past four years. 

Today, as we mark the fourth anniversary of one of the most harrowing events in our history, we also remember the hope and strength of a people. 

The 1st of September 2019 is a day that will be forever etched in our hearts. Four years removed from that terrible day, we still mourn the family, friends, and colleagues who are no longer with us. I stand with you in honouring and preserving their legacies. The memory of their bravery, love, and sacrifices will live on through us.

Today is a day to cherish their memories and uplift one another even as we mourn. Grief is such a heavy burden to bear, and it is only made bearable by the love and support we extend to one another. 

The anniversary of Hurricane Dorian will always bring with it a surge of emotions, re-awakening the pain that we felt so deeply. To those of you who lost family members, friends, classmates, and colleagues, I wish to express my deepest sympathies. I know that today is very difficult for you. I stand with you in honouring and preserving their memory. 

Among the most significant ways we can honour the memories of our loved ones is by providing the support necessary for Abaco to thrive. 

We will do this by continuing to bring in investments and develop opportunities for employment, entrepreneurship, and homeownership. 

For as much progress as we have made, we can still see the scars of Dorian’s wrath on the landscape of Abaco. It is no secret that climate change is exacerbating extreme weather events. Countries across the Caribbean find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of ruin and repair. This highlights the need to invest in protective measures, like the Abaco Sea Wall completed earlier this year, and the Abaco Hurricane Shelter and Community Centre, which promises to serve as a welcome harbour for residents in both serene and stormy times. We must prioritise and expedite the development of climate-resilient infrastructure. 

In Hope Town, we have seen the debris amassed in the wake of Dorian finally cleared away. This is a very welcome sight. And there is more work underway. Through it all, Hope Town continues to live up to its name.

The government must continue to play its part in promoting growth in Abaco. We all know what Abaconians are capable of. We’ve seen it before Dorian, we see it with the recovery to date, and I honestly believe the best days of Abaco are ahead of us.

There has been understandable frustration spilling over from the government’s response in 2019 and continuing into 2023, where there is still more vital work that needs to be done.

We know that we can do more. Because Abaco deserves more. And building a stronger Abaco is the most powerful way we can honour the memories of those who are no longer with us.

Together, we can come out of any storm – even a super storm like Hurricane Dorian –  stronger than before. 

As we remember and mourn our loved ones – as we smile at the good days and find the resolve to keep striving during the difficult moments – let’s find strength in unity and hope in collaboration. There is no way we can ever fully heal the loss of those who were taken away from us on that tragic day. But there is solace that can be found in moving forward together. As the well known hymn reminds us, we are never alone:

I’ve seen the lightning flashing

And heard the thunder roll,

I’ve felt sin’s breakers dashing,

which tried to conquer my soul;

I’ve heard the voice of my Savior,

He bid me still fight on:

He promised never to leave me,

Never to leave me alone.

No, never alone!

Thank you, Abaco. May God continue to preserve and bless you all.