FGCU athlete describes Caribbean community healing after hurricanes

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Melinda Lee/WINK News

An FGCU volleyball player returned to her home country recently for the first time since a hurricane destroyed much of it.

“(It was) nerve racking because it was hitting the place I call home for many years,” said Sharonda Pickering. “It’s really hard to think of what it was then and what it is now.”

Pickering plays volleyball for FGCU and was with her team in Estero, hundreds of miles from home, when she learned about Category 5 Hurricane Maria approaching her family and home on the British Virgin Islands.

“I came back home and everything was different. A lot of trees that were threre were gone. A lot of homes are still damaged,” she said.

“At that time when the storm was hitting the Virgin Islands, we were still in Florida preparing to go to a volleyball game,” Pickering added.

And the FGCU volleyball team was up against another severe storm in the form of Hurricane Irma preparing to hit SWFL.

“During Irma we were able to travel, and we traveled a few days because we could not return home to Florida,” Pickering said.

It was a frightening experience in more ways than one.

“During the storm there was no communication between me and my family. I believe that the power and stuff went out really early so by the time it hit, I was not able to contact anyone,” Pickering said.

But Pickering credits her team and teammates for getting her through it.

“Teammates would come up to me and ask me how my family is doing or if I heard anything from them, so they were definitely very supportive,” she said.

Pickering adds that the storms may have destroyed property, but they strengthened bonds.

“Once I found out that they were okay, I was pretty happy and content,” Pickering said. “I think the hurricane season last year brought us closer together as a team.”

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