Iris Harewood

94 years - San Juan

I was born in Icacos [the south westernmost tip of Trinidad]. Well, we lived in a wooden house on stilts…no not too far from the ground but high enough as a child you can fit under it and play. We had two roads in the small village, the inner road [normal road] and the beach [which they used so much they considered that to be a normal road].We would walk the mile to school and pass on the beach at low tide.

Now it had rain for the whole weekend but it wasn’t enough to stop us from going to school. But lunch time came and they send us home when the wind started to get rougher. The Inner road was flooded so we walked along the beach. When you see waves, they were big and coming fast on the shore [for this village was located on the normally calm gulf].

Wind blowing, thunder rolling, rain falling. When you reach the house your clothes tattered. We went to sleep after we dry off and our mother give us something to eat. When we woke up again later like seven [P.M.] the rain was harder and the wind stronger, we asked our mother what was happening, she told us it was the end of the world and we should keep praying. So we [two brothers one older, one younger and her mother - her father was stuck where he worked] kneeled and prayed to the Chapelle [an eternal light lit by devout Catholics in the home, hardly seen today] praying on our knees with our mother's rosary.

After a while now the trees began to fall, the roof and the walls [made of wood which was commonplace in that era in rural Trinidad] began to fall down and we were left exposed to it all [in pitch darkness]. My mother fainted [she had only been home a week from the hospital for a heart condition] my big brother [14 years] said let us get her to our aunt. Thank God our mother was small and slim 'cause I was 12 years old and my younger brother 8 and it was hard for us to move her.

Everything was dark, only when lightning flash you could see your way. [With the roads now flooded and with no artificial lights to guide them, the three children had to carry their mother a mile to their aunt's house over fallen trees and debris, never knowing if the way they were going was the right way, all in absolute darkness.] The water was up to the third step [of their house] we push her [unconscious mother] drag her, lift her; shove her, to get her to Mimi [aunt] house. I say "Harris [older brother] that look like a light" [in the distance through the darkness and unfamiliar landscape, rain still beating their brows and winds tearing at their clothes, no solid footing in all the mud]. We push her over the trees and branches over the road, pushing her under and over and under. We got to the house; my aunt had leave a light on for us if we had tried to find her. They helped us put Mommy in the house. She was wet and still breathing and we were so tired we went to sleep after we dry off. I didn’t know that was the last time I would see my mother. When I woke up they told me she had died.

"That was the end of my childhood. That was the end of my life in Icacos. I will always remember the date- June 27 [her birthday-June 27]"

Ms Harewood and her siblings survived the hurricane of 1933- with no early warning system and no way of them knowing that the otherwise benign rainfall would become such a threat. And with no streetlights or telephones, communication with neighbours was impossible. These three children were alone in a dark, wet, violent world.

Ms Harewood then moved to another part of the island with her adopted family, the Headmaster [principal] of her school and his wife. Her father agreed to this since the nature of his job did not allow him to adequately look after the children and educate them. Ms Harewood finished her studies and moved to Port of Spain to become a nurse. There, she married, had children and continued working despite a law at that time obliging all married women to discontinue employment. She said she was one of the very first nurses to remain employed while married and pregnant.