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  Yves Bourel has been living in St. Barts for more than 10 years. He is an experienced journalist and has been the editor-in-chief for local newspapers. Currently, he is one of the radio announcers at Radio St. Barth for whom he covers political news and is presenting the local news every 2 weeks for St. Barths Online!
  September 27, 2001 - Issue # 6
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  Shock, grief and unanswered questions
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  To tell you the truth, I didn't have it in me to write my article for this site in time for the mid-month due date. Like millions of people the world over, I was deeply shaken by the events that transpired in America on September 11. I was in New York when the unimagineable occurred. There were other island residents-past and present- who were there, too. Like me, most are back on island, teetering between the need to talk about what we saw and wanting to talk about anything but the attack, however banal, however ordinary. I can't say how others have fared since their return. As for me, I've had a hard time focusing on my writing and local current events.
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  There is a striking contrast between the apocalyptic images in Manhattan and Washington and life here, in St. Barth. There is a world of difference between the brutal devastation of life and property in Eastern America and the gentle, arid beauty of the local landscape. Though real enough, the contrast is only superficial. Geographically far removed from the hub of tragedy, the island was traumatized by the horrific events that have marked our spirits forever. A French island to be sure, two other flags are often seeing ruffling in the wind alongside the French banner: the Swedish drapeau, and the Stars and Stripes. America has become part of the St. Barth tapestry of cultures and affinities, one that has embellished with the passing years. Many St. Barth men expatriated to St. Thomas several decades ago to escape the the island's fare of poverty and joblessness. Some took their families with them, started families and communities over there, expanding northward until the links between the people of St. Barth and America had become solidly established. America has been-and continues to be- a land of friendship, a land with open arms that have welcomed family member and friends alike. You'd be hard-pressed to find a St. Barth (and a good number of metropolitans) without at least one sentimental attachment on the far side of the Atlantic, without at least one family member, however distant, who bears the family name in the United States. It was both fitting and natural that Mayor Bruno Magras, a former Virgin Island resident himself, publish a letter on this website, expressing to the people of America his deepest sorrow and re-affirming the friendship and support that he extended to the American people on behalf of the entire island.
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  In the aftermath of the initial shock and grief (a memorial servicewas organized by the American community on Friday, September 14 at the Anglican church in Gustavia), islanders are returning to some semblance of normalcy. They're back at work, taking care of business and other duties though their heads still shake in disbelief, their hearts still ache, and their minds are filled with growing uncertainty as to what the future will bring, notably as concerns the island's economy.
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  On this subject, the main concern revolves around the upcoming tourist season. After a summer of lackluster economic performance, the island's hotels and rental agencies were counting, as always, on winter business to improve their financial situations. Today, the future provides little assurance that those brighter times will come. If local tourism professionals consider that it would be premature to sound the alarm, most are bracing themselves for a drop in occupancy rates that will gouge into earnings for the next few months, perhaps longer.
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  As we wait to see how events will play out, St. Barth is living from day to day, praying for peace, a better world and the thousands of victims and their families that this tragedy has left in its wake.

  More to come,

  Yves Bourel


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