TAMPA, Fla. - As Hurricane Dorian roared in from the sea, Howard Armstrong and his wife, Lynn, were neck-deep in dark water, struggling to stand atop their kitchen cabinets.
"She was scared as hell, her teeth were chattering," Armstrong said. “She said, 'I think I’m going to die.' I said, 'Lynn, we’re not going to die, we’re not going to die.'”
The couple had been together for 30 years and the home they shared on Grand Bahama Island, where Armstrong is a crab fisherman, had weathered other storms. But Dorian was different.
“We had been through many storms, but we had never had the water raise that high," Armstrong said. "No one had ever seen anything of that sort.”
In a matter of hours, water poured into their home as winds whipped furniture around like they were inside a washing machine.
“It was just too dangerous," Armstrong said. "I had to get her on the kitchen cabinets until it all fell down and disintegrated and that’s when it all hit the fan then; it was terrible.”
He was desperate to find another way to safety.
“I said, 'I’m going to go outside.' So I swam out underneath the door and went outside," he said. "But it was just too dangerous."
In those moments, he lost everything.
“I wasn’t gone two seconds. When I came back, she’d already perished. She was laying there, floating,” Armstrong recalled.
His hope drained, Howard frantically swam to higher ground.
“I didn't know what else to do," he said. "I made a mad dash for the outside and hung on a tree until dark. I saw my boat still floating and I managed to swim out to it. Otherwise, I would have been swept away. God only knows how my boat just stayed there and saved my life."
That’s where he stayed until the storm passed. For days after, he searched for Lynn’s body.
“I was just calling out her name and I couldn’t find her," he said.
He says the debris field of his house stretched for miles. Where his home stood, he found a stranger's belongings.
"Other people's photos from miles away were in my yard. I was picking up people's photos, and I didn't even know who they were," he said.
He didn't stick around for longer than a few days because looters began making their way into his neighborhood.
"People that hadn’t been affected were cashing in on everything," he said.
Lynn, who worked for the Freeport News, is one of the more than 50 who died. Howard said his neighbors, a husband and wife, also died.
Armstrong traveled from Grand Bahama to Nassau Monday. He's working to get the right paperwork so he can travel to Florida, where his daughter lives.
“The government and everybody has put us through really good, and they are helping a lot of people here, there’s no doubt about it,” he added. “We’re all one in the Bahamas...We’re all one.”