SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Hurricane Dorian is now off the coast of southeastern Massachusetts and is expected to hit Canada this weekend. Dorian hit the Bahamas as a Category 5 storm and has left that island nation devastated. The destruction seems to be historic, and the recovery could be slow, agonizing and expensive.
Bill Albury is a sixth-generation Bahamian. He spoke with Weekend Edition Sunday last week from Marsh Harbour in the Abaco Islands just as the storm was approaching. We spoke to him yesterday after he'd just arrived in Palm Beach, Fla., the night before.
BILL ALBURY: We got out, my wife and I and our animals. We managed to save two dogs and two cats out of Treasure Cay, not Marsh Harbour where we lived. But we migrated - had to migrate to Treasure Cay and got out on a private charter along with some other friends.
SIMON: How are you?
ALBURY: Other than a few aches and pains physically, I'm going to be fine. But my wife and I have been through quite a trauma. And not only us, but everyone in the Abacos are quite distressed and devastated. Never seen anything like this in my entire life of 60-odd years.
SIMON: Where were you?
ALBURY: We were hunkered down in our home, which is a modest three-bed, three-bath home 30 feet above sea level. But just before the eye will approach the house, we lost a window, even though we were all completely shuttered up with proper shutters - Lexan and aluminum, Bahama shutters. We had a window pop out from the pressure, and we tried to put it back. And once that pressure was compromised inside the house, the whole house literally started to come apart.
SIMON: Were you in a bathroom, basement?
ALBURY: No, we were - it was a two-story house. We were on the main floor. We had our own generator and auxiliary, water - everything that we needed - we thought - to get through the storm. And once we released the window and the pressure changed inside the house, it was like diving, you know, to depths that you couldn't imagine with your eardrums. Felt like they were caving in.
And then we noticed that parts of the house started to come from the upstairs to the downstairs. And we were in a very stressed situation, went to the back door, which was our escape hatch. We did have an escape plan because we have a concrete bunker under the house. And the pressure was so hard on the back door. It was, at that time, we found out later, over 200 miles an hour. We could not get the door open, so we were literally trapped in the little alcove by the back door while we watched the house collapse and envelop us. It was a very, very trying time. We both hugged each other and prayed. It was a very serious time.
SIMON: And your animals were with you.
ALBURY: Our animals was with us. They were in a separate room that we thought was out of harm's way at the time. It was the guest bedroom downstairs. Well, we couldn't get the door open either way, so we thought we'd all perish together.
And when we were about to give up, the pressure from the storm reduced enough that we could force the door open and ran to the basement and had to leave the animals. Then we found out about 15 minutes later that it was, indeed, the eye. So we came out of the basement, went back and retrieved the animals. And, thankfully, there was a neighbor across the street whose house was still intact, and he was waving to us. He welcomed us in with all four animals, and we spent the rest of the storm in his house. And he stayed intact for the most part.
In my neighborhood, there are approximately - I don't know - a dozen homes. And out of the dozen homes, there were only two that were not devastated.
SIMON: I think you told us that you had just about given up.
ALBURY: Yes. You mean when the house was compromised?
SIMON: Yeah, when you were there in that alcove.
ALBURY: Yeah, we were praying and hugging and thinking that it was, maybe, a farewell. But I honestly still had faith, even though my wife might've not felt the same way. And I encouraged her to hang in. And, luckily, something changed.
SIMON: Yeah, God bless. You must have a million things to do in Palm Beach now. I mean, I'm trying to imagine.
ALBURY: We're trying to catch up with a lot of our friends from all over the world that have reached out to us...
ALBURY: ...And tried to console us. So that's important. We have a son over here in school in North Carolina in Charlotte at the University of Queens. It was absolutely frantic. And he did an incredible job through the storm trying to coordinate a rescue effort to get us out. It's quite amazing.
SIMON: Your son did that?
ALBURY: Yes, sir. It's unbelievable.
SIMON: What a great guy.
ALBURY: Just to read the correspondence and the outreach that he created - friends from every corner of the Earth that he contacted in an effort to try to get us out and bring us out alive. Quite amazing young man.
SIMON: Well, he has great parents, too.
ALBURY: Well, thank you, sir. Tomorrow is his birthday. I promised him before the storm that I would see him on his birthday. So I'm going to try to get up there tomorrow and fulfill my promise.
SIMON: Oh, he wants to see you, Mr. Albury.
ALBURY: Yes, very mutual feelings.
SIMON: Yeah. Well, thank you for being so generous with your time. And happy birthday to your son.
ALBURY: Thank you very much, sir. And I enjoyed the opportunity to share my story with you. And I hope that others get inspired and learn to keep the faith, if nothing else.
SIMON: That's Bill Albury of the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. He survived Hurricane Dorian.
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