PINE PEACE — It was less than a week after Hurricane Maria scattered relief workers and first responders trying to get St. John back on its feet when a crew of workmen appeared on the roof of a tiny church compound.
They came daily with a generator, hammers and drills to put up the roof at St. John Christian Academy. The island’s parochial school was getting ready for the start of a new year filled with uncertainty and determination.
Much of the recovery work could be seen from the gas station across the road. The crew of less than a dozen men moved steadily across the L-shaped roof, putting plywood in place.
By the weekend, they descended to ground level, patching up covered walkways.
Most of the work was done in seven days.
Inside the principal’s office, Pastor Reginald Joseph swept around his desk, amid piles of books. He spoke to a visitor about the damage caused by Maria on Sept. 19 and her powerful predecessor, Hurricane Irma, on Sept. 6. At the end of the walkway, a team with a ladder whirled away with a drill.
Joseph is pastor of Cruz Bay Baptist Church as well as principal of the Christian Academy.
“We lost our entire roof, lost the computer lab. But, hey — that’s how it is,” Joseph said.
The push was on to have things up and running by Oct. 2 when classes were set to begin.
In a religious school, it would be reasonable to think of those seeking help from above.
The academy principal said this time help came from abroad. The daughter of a former academy teacher connected with Joseph from the U.S. mainland and asked what sort of help was needed.
Her response helped provide some resources to aid in a quick remediation, he said.
At the end of the last school year St. John Christian Academy had 70 students. About 35 parents showed up for a post-hurricane meeting Sept. 28.
The pastor said he didn’t know if 35 parents showing up at a meeting meant 35 students in grades K – 6 would return. “Some have gone to the states and we’re hoping that they return,” he said.