Dennis Hue is an artist by trade but during the hurricane he had to draw on
other skills. From handyman to rescue worker to cook, the local landscape
painter managed to help out hundreds sheltering from the storm, relying on
instinct – and a good deal of daring – when Ivan was raging all around.
“I’m just privileged to have had the chance to do for my country,” Hue said
in an interview. “It’s given me a new dimension in life.”
Hue depicts a dramatic rescue he made during the storm in a work titled
Shattered, which is on display at the National Gallery as part of the group
“It was easy for me to create. My work of art and my story is a true one – I
The piece shows Hue about to enter the shattered home of a woman and her
three–week–old baby the night of the hurricane. As water rose above the
windowsill, the family had to put the baby in an empty fridge to stay afloat.
Hue helped rescue both, along with three other family members, from the
devastated apartment in Industrial Park.
“You just couldn’t believe anybody could be alive in a building like
It was one of many rescue missions Hue made during the hurricane, driving in
pitch blackness through the pounding wind and rain over roads littered with
fallen trees, power poles and debris. At one point, he had to get out of the van
to clear cables that had jammed the vehicle.
“There was a sense of, ‘what if they didn’t turn off the electricity?’ The
lines were touching you. I felt fearful too of the deep waters because I don’t
Hue decided to weather the storm at the John Gray High School shelter,
arriving late Saturday. When the winds picked up “all the problems started to
Water began slowly leaking in through the building. They were minor leaks,
but could make life miserable because people were sleeping on the floor. He
began tending to the leaks when he noticed the windows starting to bulge. Though
they were outfitted with hurricane shutters, the windowsills were rotted and
began caving in. The doors were also shaking. Hue mobilized a crew to help
reinforce the windows and doors, using boarding materials that were on hand at
the shelter. A wooden hammer he’d brought along proved to be a blessing –it took
awhile to locate the shelter’s toolkit.
When the window in the attic began bulging, the crew made a makeshift ladder
from chairs so Hue could reach it.
“That was the scariest time because I had to stand in front of the window. I
felt the danger then. Spray was coming through the rotted seams of wood. I said
a prayer then.”
When word came through the CB radio that the roof had collapsed on the nearby
medical shelter in Isley Conolly Hall, Hue sprang into action.
“By this time, I wanted to get out of the building. I suffer from
claustrophobia, and the place was over–jammed, sweltering. I just wanted to
Hue ran across the compound amid howling winds and flying debris, assessing
the safest way to move people through the storm. He took in an alarming scene
when he arrived.
“The roof was completely blown off, the insulation was on top of the people
and water cascaded on top of everybody.”
Officials quickly assessed priority patients that needed to be taken to the
hospital, mainly elderly people. Hue volunteered to drive them in a van loaned
by a shelter resident. Medical personnel transporting a seriously ill patient in
another vehicle followed him.
It was a harrowing drive.
“You couldn’t tell where the road was. You had to rely on your instincts.
Somehow, we managed to get through.”
It was chaos when he arrived at the hospital. The building was in darkness
since the generator had given out. Hundreds of people had flocked to the
hospital seeking shelter.
Hospital officials approached Hue to transfer some of them to a nearby
shelter, assuring him damages to the loaned vehicle would be covered. He set out
again in the raging storm. Many of his passengers were terrified.
“I realized I had to try to calm them down so I told them I was the best
driver in Cayman – I’ve been driving 32 years without an accident.”
Hue can’t remember how many trips he made but guesses it was more than a
dozen. He made several side trips as well, including the rescue mission to
After his final trip, fatigue caught up with him. Suffering from hypothermia
and feeling the full effects of a flu he’d been nursing earlier, Hue was
exhausted. Hospital staff gave him warm clothes to change into, and medical
staff tended to him.
He eventually returned to John Gray with the van but was given a less than
warm welcome. The person who had loaned the vehicle was angry about the damages
– and let him know.
It was a down point for Hue though he prefers to look at the whole experience
in a positive light. That’s reflected in his artwork – amid the darkness there
is a tinge of blue sky.
“I’ve always believed that out of the dark, there is some hope of light.”
Hue continued to lend a hand after the storm, helping some recover their
vehicles and doing odd jobs and repairs at the shelter. He also cooked for those
sheltering at the Community College, a skill he’d honed during his 15 years as a
He’s planning to do a series of works on the hurricane, injecting humour and
hope within them.
“Cayman emerged as a very resilient nation after all the devastation. What I
saw was unity and love for each other and my wish is for this to prevail even
after the healing has taken place.”
Hue said he emerged from the hurricane with a greater sense of self.
“I’m stronger. I’m more confident. There’s hardly anything I cannot face from