Following Atlantic storms, Virgin Island brothers finally able to call home


Junior Avery Joseph, left, and his brother, freshman Ahmed Joseph hold up the flag of the Virgin Islands, where they are from, on Sept. 30 in the Jack Skoog Indoor track.

Among those affected in the Southeast and Caribbean hurricanes over the past few months, Central Michigan track and field brothers Avery and Ahmed Joseph are happy to say their family survived the storms. 

The brothers, both throwers, are from St. Thomas, part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Avery, a junior, said they were able to contact family back home after Hurricane Irma.

Avery said in the days before Hurricane Maria, the waiting only heightened their anxieties.

“It was good to hear that it was all OK after the first storm,” Avery said. “Knowing a second is looming was very scary for us all.”

They finally were able to contact home on Sept. 26.

“(The call) went well,” Avery said. “Luckily, the hurricane did not hit them as strong as (Irma). It did hit another island that has family of mine — St. Croix – but as far as we know, they’re fine as well.”

They both said the Virgin Islands were lucky to not have been hit as hard as other Atlantic Islands. The unusually active 2017 hurricane season has seen five major hurricanes — the most since 2010.

“We see all the destruction (in other areas) and can only be thankful our family is safe in both islands,” Ahmed said. 

They described the horrors they heard about on their first call from home — from vicious floods to roofs flying off churches. St. Thomas is a very close-knit area, Avery said, and he described his neighbors as more like siblings, parents and grandparents.

“In America, it’s all bigger, but the Virgin Islands are very small,” Ahmed said. “It hits us deeply when something like this happens, not just because of our blood family there, but because of everyone else we love.”

Avery said their teammates and coaches have been a blessing throughout the events.

“They’ve been very kind,” he said. “They are making sure our family is OK and asking us if we’re OK. It means a lot.

“It just shows we’re not only a team on the track, but off the track as well.”

Ahmed has been following in his older brother’s footsteps as he became a walk-on for the track and field team this season. 

Avery also was a walk-on as a freshman. Before this season, he was awarded for his efforts with a $20,000 scholarship to continue competing. 

“It’s an accomplishment. All I ever wanted was to make it to a Division I school and get a scholarship,” Avery said. “With everything that’s happening, it feels very nice to get good news.”

Ahmed said some might shy away from competing at the same school as their older brothers, but it feels normal for him.

“We played football together as kids,” he said. “Transitioning into track and field is a bigger deal because we get to compete against each other, doing our best to beat the other every meet.”

After the news from home, the brothers said their primary focus is now preparing for the upcoming outdoor track and field season. With the guidance of throwing coach Matt Adams, both have set high goals for the spring. 

Ahmed hopes to place in the top six in the Mid-American Conference Championships and hit 60 meters by the end of the season. 

After placing second at the MAC Championships last year, Avery wants to make it to the first round of the NCAA tournament.