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November 16, 2017 • Headline News
Jac-Cen-Del second graders were treated to a visit from their “Trucker Buddy” John Ertel. Students and teachers will communicate with their “Trucker Buddy” through the school year. The Batesville Casket Company makes this program possible. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Francis McIntosh, pictured right, and Carol Holcomb, pictured above left, took home the quilts from the bazaar made by Tri Kappa ladies Susan Underwood, Carol Holzer, Rosemary Study, Phyllis Barlow and Sandra Noah, pictured with Carol Holcomb. LINDA CHANDLER PHOTO
Pictured above from left are Mama Milla (Diana Johnson); fan Amber; Jenna; brother, Micah Johnson with girlfriend, Anna.
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PAGE UPDATED BY MARIA SIEVERDING NOVEMBER 16, 2017 1 P.M.


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Season of Thanksgiving means a lot after riding out Hurricane Irma

Holton couple thankful

Sandy Day Howard
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

William Bennett once said that sometimes we need to remind ourselves that thankfulness is indeed a virtue. The situation a local couple found themselves in a few months ago was not only humbling, but also provided a valuable life lesson of gratitude and thanksgiving. When Debbi Mahon-Smith and husband Larry Smith planned a trip to the Caribbean island of St. Maarten, they had had no idea that their luxury vacation would become an exercise in humility. They couldn’t have known that Mother Nature had some big things in store that would alter their plans, and their lives.

Debbi and Larry Smith of HoltonSUBMITTED PHOTO
Debbi and Larry Smith expected to have a vacation like the picture above where they are enjoying life with good food, friends, and experiences. However they wound up riding out Hurricane Irma and being stranded on St. Maarten with the bare necessities.


The couple, having visited 12 other islands in the Caribbean in the past, was excited for their 5th anniversary trip this past September. Although they had prior warning that foul weather might be headed to their vacation spot during their visit, flights had already been booked and accommodations were reserved (and paid for). Besides, what was the likelihood that a hurricane would actually hit during their visit? They decided to go forward with their exotic trip. Like most of the Caribbean Islands, St. Maarten is 100% tourist driven. There is no other industry so the island’s working class depends solely on vacationers for income. One side of the island is governed by the Dutch government and is primarily residential. The other is ruled by France and is home to expensive yacht clubs, and properties - an affluent area of the Caribbean.

“We had a fabulous first day in St. Maarten,” Debbi recalled. “We spent the morning getting settled in to Divi Little Bay Resort and relaxing on the beautiful property. The next day we loaded up for an ATV tour of the lush island.”

The ocean was calm and the breeze was warm but that was about to change. As weather reports poured in, it was becoming obvious that Hurricane Irma was going to strike the island. St. Maarten, and the Smiths, were directly in its path. The resort kept its guests updated, announcing that a strike was inevitable. Staff and guests were instructed that a lock down would occur that evening and that they were to gather at the resort’s convention area to ride out the storm. The center, a one story facility very close to the ocean, had been secured by maintenance staff by boarding up the floor to ceiling glass windows and battening down doors. Food and water had been moved into the Pure Ocean Restaurant, one of the resort’s three eateries in preparation. The resort had secured a fuel run generator to provide electrical service in the event of a power outage.

Over the course of the next 18 hours, evacuated vacationers and Divi Little Bay’s staff listened from inside the conference area as 185 mile an hour winds, rain, and the ocean propelled devastation across the tiny island. “You could hear the wind, but you felt it more than you heard it.” Debbi recalled. At one point, she said, 10 feet of water surrounded the building.

Everyone worked together to repair damage and put sandbags around the entryways between downpours, take care of maintenance issues, and prepare meals. The mood remained cautiously positive as staff and guests fraternized, played games, and prayed until the category 5 hurricane passed. “It was a special time,” Debbi remarked. “In the eye of the storm, we became a family.”

When the group emerged, nothing was as it had been. The generator that was powering the resort began to fail, plumbing was inoperable, and first floor guests found their rooms totally destroyed. The Smiths second floor suite had four inches of water in most of their unit. Seaweed plastered the walls. The bed remained dry but the other furniture was damp. With no air conditioning, the couple opened the doors and windows to prevent mildew. As the hours turned into days, guests used buckets of water to flush toilets and bottled water to brush their teeth. After sifting leaves and debris from one level of the resort’s pool, it became a public bath where guests in swimsuits or clothes brought shampoo and soap and dipped out buckets of the water to bathe. Although the generator had been repaired, it was running low on fuel so conservation was necessary.

Debbi and Larry weren’t sure when, or how, they would ever get home. The devastation was as far as they could see and the information they were getting about rescue efforts was limited to what they could find out from Dutch military personnel. They learned that the airport had been destroyed but the US was planning to send C-130 military planes to evacuate tourists back to the US. Over the next few hours and days, most of the resort’s employees learned that their homes had been devastated by Irma. As days progressed islanders began to try to patch up their businesses and shelters. With few supplies available, the island’s only industry indefinitely tainted, and little help from the Dutch government, the situation was dire. Everything in St. Maarten is imported as tourism is the only industry so prices for much needed supplies skyrocketed the next few days. Resort management procured a 60 gallon barrel of fuel for the generator, but was gouged $2,000 for it. As islanders began to try and patch up their homes and businesses, they were charged $69 for a 4x8 piece of plywood and each sheet of ‘zinc’ that was used for roof repair was going for $99.

Plans quickly changed regarding the military rescue as the 125 resort guests learned that they would not be transported back to the US via military planes. While they were without most modern conveniences, the group was grateful that they still had food and bottled water…and shelter. Guests from other resorts, as well as some of St. Maarten’s locals, started to migrate from other parts of the island to eat during the catastrophe as their locations were without resources. Management began to fear that the resort could run out of food and was forced to issue wrist bands so they could differentiate between Little Bay guests and others. It became necessary for water to be rationed.

Four days after Irma pummeled St. Maarten and parts of the southern coast of the US, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines stepped in and sent a ship at their own expense to rescue the stranded resort guests. The US government was not involved with the rescue, nor did it pick up any of the expenses. Debbi and Larry, along with most of the new friends they had made, would be leaving the island via ship. What’s more, the ship’s captain announced that they were to be Royal Caribbean’s guests for the next week as the ocean liner sailed through the south Atlantic where they would be docking at several more islands. The group left the desolation of St. Maarten and boarded the luxurious cruise ship where they were treated like royalty.

“Food, entertainment, the entire cruise was all ‘on the house’!” Debbi explained. Additionally, Royal Caribbean employees had unloaded half the ship’s supplies for the islanders when they picked up their guests. Later, the company sent additional ships full of supplies.

While Adventures of the Sea floated through the Atlantic for the next six days, the 350 unexpected guests enjoyed their own staterooms (with balcony), food, entertainment, and ‘anything we wanted or needed.’ Debbi said. “We spent most of our time on the cruise with our friends from St. Maarten, who had become like family to us. Still, we felt a sort of survivor’s remorse because we knew that so many of the employees who had helped take care of us as we all weathered the storm at Divi Little Bay Beach Resort had lost everything. Additionally, their only source of income had been stifled because of the devastation. We had homes and property to go back to. They didn’t.”

“We noticed many of the paying guests on the cruise loaded their plates with food from the lavish buffets, wasting much of what they took,” the couple remarked. “We wouldn’t have thought of that before this happened. We eat differently now. We don’t eat as much. We can get by on so much less now.”

Once the week ended, the ship docked in Puerto Rico where the Smiths purchased two tickets back to the mainland. The airline charged the couple over 1500 for the two one way fares. Debbi said she was shocked to learn that Americans staying at other resorts on St. Maarten who were eventually picked up by the military’s C-130s were charged $337/each. The resort did not bill the couple’s credit card for their ‘accommodations’, food or any other expenses during the disaster. The couple’s vacation points were refunded.

The couple continues to stay in touch with their new friends, both guests and employees of the resort, and have started a Go Fund Me page to help their extended family in St. Maarten. They urge those who can, to donate to the workers at Divi Little Bay Resort who cared for guests and Dutch military personnel during those harrowing days in September.

It’s often said that among life’s greatest trials come tremendous blessings. The Smith’s experience, and their newfound family, is just that. Although Larry laughs that he will never return to the Caribbean during hurricane season, the couple has booked a trip to the Dominican Republic in February.


Earn credits from Vincennes University
SCC offers computer-aided design

The Computer Aided Design class at the Southeastern Career Center, Versailles, is a design class covering architectural, mechanical, and game animation. This is a two-year program in drafting and design principles.

Southeastern Career Center CAD studentSUBMITTED PHOTO
Pictured left a student in the CAD Program at Southeastern Career Center, Versailles, works on a project.

As the student works through first year, they will develop drawing and drafting skills using board drafting and computer drafting programs. Students will complete their first year with making 3D models and animations. Students will be exposed and using AutoDesk Suite which includes AutoCAD 2D & 3D, Inventor, 3DS Max, Maya, and more.

During the students’ second year, they will be working the full year to develop in the area of their interest. Architectural students will learn about the various house styles, plans and layouts. They will also work to create a set of house plans for their dream home. In addition, they will be able to build a scale model of that same house. They will also work with the building trades and electrical class on the project house for real world experience on a job site.

Mechanical students will work through design principles and build experience working with the machine shop and welding classes. They will create numerous items that will be used to integrate the principles and design concepts used in the mechanical design world. The second year game animation students will begin with making hand-drawn animations, cartoons and work into computer models and animations. They will be using top software used by gaming companies.

During the course of the year, there are various class projects to develop teamwork between students from various schools. Some past projects include a coin sorter, vacuum cannon, hovercraft vehicle, and others. Students also have the option to compete in the Rube Goldberg competition as an additional class project.

The CAD class offers dual credits with Vincennes University. Students have the ability to complete 10 credits, as they work through the CAD programs. Student will be registered with a SkillsUSA for membership and compete in content specific competitions for college scholarships. The CAD program at the Southeastern Career Center is a great stepping stone to prepare for college and find your area or engineering interest.

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