(CBS) – While much of the focus in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma has been on Florida, some Chicago area residents are distraught about the fate of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
St. John, in particular, is 20 square miles, just east of Puerto Rico. Only about 4,100 people live on the formerly lush and now heavily damaged island.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams picks up the story.
For 52 harrowing hours, Anna Yum and Emilie Kosch could not reach their mother, Lou Kosch, a Chicago native now living on St. John, which was decimated by Irma.
Anna says her family was in turmoil, not knowing if Lou “was alive, if she was dead, if she was buried.”
She enlisted social media for help, posting a picture and asking: “Has anyone seen this woman? Her name is Lou. She’s known as the mom of the island.”
The Mom of the Island was finally able to leave a voice message for Emilie, using the daughter’s pet name.
“Hi, Foo Foo. It’s mama. I just wanted to call and tell you that I love you,” her emotional message began.
Then Lou made contact with Anna, who says: “I fell to the ground because I was so happy that she was OK.”
Lou and others on St. John describe a once-beautiful island without basics. Her daughters say the stench of dead animals is overpowering and food is scarce.
Eventually Lou will return to the Chicago area to be with her daughters. For now, she’s staying on St. John to help her neighbors.
On social media, people with family members and friends on St. John say the small island has gone unnoticed, with so much focus on Florida.
“This is a U.S. territory. They are part of us,” Emilie says. “Hurricane Irma hit the United States three days before it hit Florida. And all anyone was covering was Florida, Florida, Florida.”