Tangier Island Virginia, floating in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay is home to 450 people. The island is just a little over a mile long and a mile wide. Tangier is facing an extreme tragedy that has been impacting the island for over a decade. The island is facing erosion, taking huge pieces of their land mass, yearly. Without a sea wall Tangier will continue to sink into the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Currently they are adding to the existing sea wall, but there is still so much that needs to be built to ensure the safety and longevity of Tangier. My goal is to raise awareness of the issues Tangier faces to help save the island. Without the sea wall Tangier will become the first climate refugees of the United States.
This is my third visit to the island. Many of my dearest friends live on the island. Most of my time spent on Tangier is learning all that I can about it. This year I decided that I needed to do something to help educate my community on something the world isn't concerned about. Creating petitions, speaking in small community gatherings, and reaching out over social media has brought many questions. The most common questions I get asked are, "Why do you want to help them even though you don't live there, can't they just move?" It has never occurred to me that Tangier is not my home. Tangier is my friends' home. The kindest people I have ever met in my entire life. I have grown to love and appreciate the island. The trip I take to the island is what I look forward to every year. There is so much history, so much love. I absolutely adore Tangier, no matter if it is my home or not. The pure love and pride these people share with everyone is beautiful.
Upon the entry to the island on the ferry there are rows and rows of crab shacks. Crabbing is a full time 24 hour job. The crabs must be checked every 3-4 hours. Most of their economy is based off of blue crabs specifically. With that being said there truly isn't any other jobs for the islanders. Today alone I have seen several young children working and helping out their island. The residents of Tangier have made their living by crabbing, and supplying oysters to Virginia and Maryland. They work from sunrise until sunset. The visitors also bring in money for Tangier. Most of their economy is built on tourism and fishing. Many of the residents have lived on the island their entire life, and their children have returned to raise children of their own. Generations upon generations have returned the the island. Many of them do not have family on the mainland. There isn't any work for them off the island unless they work for shipping companies. Their lives are on the island. Their children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and closest friends. The islands natives support each other as if they have no one else. Should Tangier sink, many do not have the necessary arrangements to live on the mainland. I've spoken to many of the islands residents. Those that have lived on the island their entire life have said that they would stay. As the island sinks, they would stay with their home. They would not abandon Tangier. And they shouldn't have too. I believe the heart break would shatter them.
Cameron Evans is the face of Tangier island. He's been in many videos and for years he has been photographing the past, and present of his home. I truly believe Cameron has done everything in his power that he can. He says he'll always carry Tangier in his heart, but as a young man starting his life he shouldn't have to worry about his home not being here to return to. Everyone as young as 2 years old understands the gravity of their home, and understands that there is very little time left. The young men and women like Cameron are the future of their home. Fighting at every chance they get, it is wrong to deny these people the help they so desperately need. Last night I reconnected with one of my closest friends Angel Sterling. I met her the first year I came to the island. Thankfully I was able to spend some time with her this year. Angel has always appreciated my help, I value her kind words. As a teenager on the island Angel has always informed about the troubles they face. Even though they're a small community, they still have all the struggles that come with being a teenager. The one thing that I have noticed is despite all their differences they band together every night. All together, throwing a ball around, getting drinks, hugging each other, running around on golf carts and scooters. No matter if it's at the church or at four brothers. You'll never see a group of young adults like the residents of Tangier. They know that they have to take care of each other, the connection they all share is too strong to be altered.
Angel Sterling, Samuel Parks, and Cameron Evans, are three of the most astonishing young adults I have met in my lifetime. Angel is the friend that everyone wishes they had, she protects her friends, and loves with her whole heart. Samuel is just 16 years old, yet has been faced with multiple tragedies that some people never experience. He has saved lives, and responded to the heart break the island has faced. Cameron opens his heart to every person who visits. Shares his pride for Tangier with everyone. I will forever be grateful of the beauty and knowledge of Tangier that Cameron has shared with me. At just 20 years old he is one of the most successful people I know. These three young adults are who will return faith and promise to our society. I cannot express the love I have for them. The millions of accomplishments that they are set to achieve in the near future is the promise of a brighter, more supportive society.
Although Tangier is very isolated from the issues the mainland deals with, society always finds it's way to Tangier. Tangier is not perfect. The visitors turn a blind eye to the uncomfortable truth. I have always tried to find both the uncomfortable aspects of Tangier as well as the positive. The only way to save Tangier, is to see all that it offers, rather it being difficult to except, but never letting it alter how you view the island. I have taken in every inch of beauty, every inch of fear, and every bit of love that they have so kindly shared with me. They live by God and believe that God gives them strength. Christ gives them strength to fight the battles that they struggle to grasp.
Many forget that they are not separate from the United States. They are AMERICANS! As Americans we should band together now greater than we have before. The pure American pride Tangier has is so powerful that it could fuel our country. If only we all believed in the power we hold as Americans, as Tangier does. In every major world war, every abled male on Tangier fought for our country. Hundreds of men and women serving their country. As John F. Kennedy once said. "Ask not what your country can do for you but what YOU can do for your country." There is no greater example of Kennedy's wise words than what the residents of Tangier have done for centuries.
I stand for every Texan who learns about this wonderful place, chooses to support them, and so effortlessly stands beside me and my fight to save them. Let us all learn and blossom from the morals Tangier shares. Let us restore and remind ourselves that there is still American Pride. Take comfort and pride in knowing that your choice to stand with Tangier will not be forgotten, nor will it ever be unrecognized.