'Happy to be home:' Irma turns Raleigh couple's dream Caribbean vacation into nightmare

Posted September 13, 2017 4:50 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2018 2:05 p.m. EDT

— A Raleigh woman, who was in St. Thomas when Hurricane Irma hit, is safe and back home after Hurricane Irma turned her dream vacation into a nightmare.

Rebekah Brantley said the worst part wasn't the storm, but what they dealt with after.

Brantley and her husband were staying at the Marriott resort in St. Thomas when Hurricane Irma came barreling through Wednesday.

"They started boarding everything up, they were putting warning signs out for the guests, so we knew what was going on," she said.

The couple tried to change their flight to leave, but it was not an option.

Brantley said guests were initially put in the ballrooms, but when the storm started, staff moved them to the employee locker room area where they felt they'd be safer. They stayed in the room for 12 hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"The building was shaking at some point in time," she said. "People were starting to panic."

'Happy to be home:' Irma turns Raleigh couple's dream Caribbean vacation into nightmare

Once the storm was over, they went outside to assess the damage.

Brantley said there was water everywhere and all their belongings were soaked and smelled terrible.

"There was mold setting in. There was water everywhere. The smell was the worst smell you could ever imagine."

The resort was in shambles, and the airport was destroyed.

"They had told us that the airport was completely gone, and it's going to be months before the airport would be back up and running," she said.

The couple had no idea when they would return home.

The Marriott eventually had a cruise ship come and take guests to San Juan. They were able to get a flight out of Puerto Rico on Sunday and return Monday.

"My feeling right now is I'm so happy to be back home in Raleigh," Brantley said.

She said she is grateful for the staff who she said took exceptional care of them when they themselves didn't know if their family members were safe.