SAINT JOHN, U.S. Virgin Islands (NEWS CENTER) — Maine families with loved ones visiting or living along the chain of islands in Hurrican Maria's path are nervously watching this hurricane's progression.
The families of two men with Maine ties are particularly concerned because their home island of Saint John in the U.S. Virgin Islands was decimated when Hurricane Irma struck Sept. 6.
One of the men lives in Cruz Bay on the western side of Saint John, while the other lives in Coral Bay, all the way to the east. They're awaiting what the next powerhouse, Maria will do to their fragile island community. Each is well known and each is digging in to help his neighbors.
In a video posted by a friend to his Facebook page, Kennebunk native Ryan Sharkey is doing what many know him for: singing in the bar and restaurant "The Dugout at 420 to Center" he owns and runs.
It’s in the heart of Cruz Bay, not far from where tourists come in by ferry.
Somehow, it was spared by Irma.
Each day since, Sharkey has served at least 600 meals a day, using his generator and his own food. According to CNBC, which calls him “one of the last standing entrepreneurs being hailed a local hero,” the only item he is charging residents for is beer: $3 a bottle.
The Red Cross is running its operations out of Sharkey’s open air pub. Of the 50 restaurants on Saint John, Ryan Sharkey's The Dugout at 420 to Center is one of the few left standing on the island. His family in Maine and around the country is praying it is spared again by Maria.
On the other side of Saint John, along the eastern shore is Coral Bay.
Photos shot through the window of Peter Burgess’s home showing Irma approaching Saint Kohn on Sept. 6. Now 13 days later and a new hurricane, Burgess’s family in Maine sits and waits — including cousin Karen Upton-Bean who lives in Hermon. "He is hunkered down. They're getting ready to face this storm just like they face all the hurricanes there. It's very difficult."
Burgess is raising his 12-year-old daughter Folksy on Saint John. He's been a builder and community leader there for years. His home is up on a hill and is made of stone. So far, it's held up well. He's been working around the clock helping islanders whose homes are gone to find a safe place to sleep and stay protected against what hurricane maria may bring.
“It’s devastation that has hit down there, the magnitude is unbelievable. So much of us want to beg him to come home and bring his daughter, but many of us understand the type of man he is that’s where his heart is.” She says her family knows Peter Burgess wants to stay so he can help islanders rebuild.
I ask Upton-Bean, "What do the next 24 hours look like for you and your family?" She pauses and gets choked up before answering. “Nervous, a lot of praying, trying to keep a positive outlook and we're trying to look beyond the next 24 hours."
And she knows, as the Sharkey family knows, that whatever the damage, Peter and Ryan will be out in front, getting islanders safe, and making sure they are fed.
Both families have set up fundraisers to send supplies, food and generators to those who are on Saint John. You can find those at gofundme.com/support420tocenter, gofundme.com/helpcoralbayfamily and directly through Karen Upton-Bean on Facebook.
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