Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Exodus

All is not happy in paradise. Ever since the announcement of Hovensa's closing, the other shoe drops, and drops, and drops. It's like an octopus.

The refinery ceased operation in April and is completely shut down now. It's weird driving by at night and there's no lights on the buildings except for a few red aviation lights blinking on the top of the stacks.

The company housing is closing down, and now that the end of the school year is approaching the pace is accelerating. Every time I drive through there's a couple more houses shuttered, a couple more driveways empty, the gardens mowed down flat.

We have a lot of friends taking off. They're all going to places where there are oil jobs. One family we were just getting close to saw the writing on the wall and left for Panama before the news broke. Another is moving to Houston. They're great people and their son Ricardo is a hoot. He's in the fifth grade, but Millie keeps saying she's going to marry him when he's old enough. And we are totally responsible for making him a Dr. Who fan.

Then there's a young man who went to school with Millie who we have sort of half adopted, or he half adopted us, hard to say. Anyway, he goes to college in Canada, but his “home” will now be San Antonio. Other friends are off to Alberta, Canada. That's about as far as you can get from St. Croix, if not geographically (and it's far) certainly socially and climatically.

And the secondary exodus has also started. People who didn't work at the refinery but whose jobs relied on it. Not a lot of those yet, but they've started. We've heard of people heading to Georgia (Atlanta is very popular with Crucians for some reason) and Texas. Another family is returning to Wisconsin Wednesday, not happy to be leaving the island but glad they have someplace to go back to.

In the “Department of Looking Desperately for Silver Linings” I suppose this means they won't count against the jobless rate, which is expected to top 19 percent by the end of the summer. But that's a long way to go for any good news.

By the time the new school year comes around, this island is going to be a very different place.

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