What began as just another balmy picturesque day in paradise, ended for its inhabitants as the day the world as they knew it, violently shook and was literally casted upside down.
By 1907, Jamaica, the tiny “…verdant beauty…” set in the middle of the Caribbean, like the magnificent jewel she was considered at the time, had established its resilience to Mother Nature’s occasional tempestuous fury. Kingston, the bustling harbor town built integrally as a preferred alternative in terms of location to the city of Port Royal, (which had eventually succumbed to repeated tropical onslaughts of natural disasters), had experienced exponential population growth and was the country’s center for commerce and trade. The afternoon of January 15, 1907, found the city in normal post noon menagerie of big city activities until approximately 3:30 pm when it was reported that preceded by a low whisper of a breeze that grew to a thunderous roar, the ground beneath Kingston began to violently shudder, creating gaps an fissures that swallowed not only entire buildings, but the terrified occupants within them.
When the shaking finally subsided, Kingston was almost unrecognizable. the loss of life was counted at over eight hundred souls, and almost all the historical buildings were either severely damaged or destroyed. The ensuing fires that swept the city leveled what structures remained, leaving survivors to brave the elements by sleeping outdoors for weeks. The devastation of the 6.5 magnitude earthquake left many to question the ability of Kingston to recover and move forward. But in the destruction many saw an opportunity to rebuild a bigger, better, logistically sound, Kingston.
Like a Phoenix, out of the ashes and rubble, and after a considerable amount of assistance and planning, Kingston did once again find the strength to rise to it former and continued magnificence.
The above picture, taken from the Jamaicans.com online archive is one of many provided by Dr. John Mercado depicting the devastation reeked on the Kingston Post Office and Town Hall by the earthquake. The sense of desolation is almost palpable.
Today Kingston is a still thriving mecca even after facing continued social, political and yes, challenges by Mother Nature. The enduring fortitude of it’s its inhabitans cannot be denied.
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