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As Local Bahamian Community Reels, Atlantans Step Up To Help Hurricane Victims

A couple embraces on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Grand Bahama, Bahamas.
A couple embraces on a road destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in Grand Bahama, Bahamas.
Credit Ramon Espinosa / Associated Press

Melissa Bevans is sitting outside an office building in Peachtree Corners, when a call comes in on her smartphone.

On the other end of the line is her mother, who’s hundreds of miles away in the Bahamas.

“Mummy, mummy. I need you to get out of there,” Bevans said, a pleading edge to her voice.

Just a few days have passed since Hurricane Dorian parked over the islands, wreaking havoc on the natural and man-made landscape.

Bevans says her mother made it through the storm unscathed, even though her house flooded.

Now, she wants her to come stateside as soon as possible.

“Mummy, I just need you out of there with all of the stuff going on,” Bevans said. “Just come and take a break until the way is clear. Can you do that for me please?”

It’s been a hard time for Atlanta’s small but tight-knit Bahamian community, Bevans included. She was born in Freeport and came to the states after high school.

Bevans went about 24 hours without talking to her mother as Dorian’s high winds and storm surge battered Grand Bahama. 

And she still hasn’t heard from more distant relatives, such as uncles and cousins, who live all over the island.

“I have family from east-end to west-end. That is the birth home of all of my ancestors. So, in every part of that island, I have been impacted,” Bevans said.

Outside a coffee shop in Smyrna, Blair Johnson says it’s felt unreal watching the place where she grew up torn apart by a hurricane.

She came to Atlanta in 2014 but is originally from Green Turtle Cay. It’s just off the Abaco Islands, where Dorian came ashore as a category 5 storm.

“It’s really hard to deal with. I’ve never been so glued to my phone and just waiting for good news,” she said. “I think I’m still in shock and still just waiting for someone to say this hasn’t happened.”

Johnson says she’s doing what she can to help with the relief effort: donating money, sharing links to crowdfunding campaigns on social media.

Still, she feels guilty about not being in the Bahamas in person. Right now, Johnson just wants to be home.

“I would do anything to be over there and help my family right now. The need is undescribable,” she said.

Elsewhere in town, people are doing what they can to help those in the Bahamas whose lives were torn apart by Dorian. At least 20 people have been killed by the storm.

Imani Scope wheels a cart full of supplies into the front lobby of an office building in Brookhaven. Upstairs is the Atlanta office of the Bahamas Consulate General.

“I brought in some toiletries: toothpaste, toothbrushes; some non-perishables: some pasta, some canned goods,” Scope said. “You know, just the little bit that I could.”

Scope doesn’t have any connection to the islands. But he saw on social media that the counsel’s office was taking donations and felt like stepping up.

“My mom always told me: ‘To whom much is given, much is expected, required even.’ And when things like this happen I try to give as much as I can,” he said.

And Scope isn’t alone.

An official with the counsel’s office says they’ve already found a storage unit to accommodate all the expected donations, which they hope to start sending to the Bahamas next week.