NORTH ELEUTHERA, The Bahamas -- Two tents stood ready across the parking lot. One was filled with T-shirts, shoes, and underwear. The other was empty, awaiting the day's first group of evacuees.
The first of the 14 boats ferrying Hurricane Dorian's victims out of Abaco and its cays was due to arrive around 1 p.m. on Saturday. The neighboring communities of Harbour Island, mainland Eleuthera and Spanish Wells, which are no strangers to hurricanes but were spared Dorian's Category 5 wrath, had spent all morning preparing to welcome them.
Then at 12:53 p.m., as the Foxy Express, a red and black luxury powerboat, appeared out of the horizon, ferrying 17 evacuees and a baby, someone screamed, "The first boat is coming! The first boat is coming!"
As frustrations continued to run high in the Bahamas with the slow pace of the relief efforts and the tallying of the dead now at 44, Bahamians and ex-pats were pulling together in Eleuthera to do their part to help the storm's victims.
"This could be us tomorrow, it could be any of us here right now," said Steven Cartwright, one of the lead volunteers who was visiting from Nassau and decided to stay on to help the relief effort. "This is their turn unfortunately and we are going to help as much as we can."
The volunteers who had been patiently waiting under the scorching sun at the government complex in North Eleuthera quickly assumed their posts. A piece of plywood separated the space: One side was for intake, the other for triage, urgent and non-urgent medical needs, and then around the corner for photo taking.
Down at the dock, several young men formed a line and quickly began unloading what little luggage there was. Then, it was time for the passengers to disembark.
Speechless and disoriented, they stepped off the boat where they were welcomed with hugs and hand sanitizers and wipes.
"Only God got me out," Rebecca Edgecombe, 62, said. "Never, never had I experienced anything like that, but God will always make a way."
Dieulande Diejuste, 30, walking with her husband and 8-year-old son, said there were just no words to express how she felt about finally being off the island of despair. Like Edgecombe, the Haitian immigrant hoped to go to Nassau.