ST. LUCIA — When Edwin and Lauren Holland left for their honeymoon to St. Lucia, they knew they’d be taking a risk.
The Cornelius couple was forced to downsize their original wedding guest list of more than 200 people to just a handful of their closest family and friends. Their scheduled wedding date, March 20, came in the midst of a global outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The two looked to their honeymoon as one thing they could salvage.
“I know that there are people saying, ‘You should've really never gone to St. Lucia in the first place,’ but for me, this was my dream. My wedding wasn't able to be my dream wedding, so this honeymoon was really all that we wanted to do,” said Lauren Holland.
“American (Airlines) also still confirmed with us face-to-face at the gate in Charlotte, and face-to-face at the gate in Miami, if there was a last flight off, they will let us know,” added Edwin Holland. “For me, I had to see her cry enough from her dream wedding being done.”
The Hollands even shortened their honeymoon by two days in order to ensure they’d make it back.
“We were on the way to the airport, and looked down at the phone and it said, ‘Your flight's canceled,’” Edwin said. “This was about four hours before the flight was going to take off.”
In the days since, the two have been under strict lockdown in St. Lucia from the threat of COVID-19 -- at times, without access to food.
Lauren said the country’s tourism manager personally brought them food the last few days, while the owner of their rental property has been working with them financially to help prolong their stay.
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“There are people here on this island, from what I hear, that don’t have water, so there are things that are so much bigger than what we are going through,” said Lauren Holland, who’s also a nurse. “I want to be able to get back to my city and I want to be able to help my coworkers who I know are working 24 hours a day trying to beat this.”
The couple last booked a flight through American Airlines for a date in May, though unsure if it will leave as scheduled.
The two have been trying to work with the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Senator Thom Tillis for help returning home.
In a statement, a spokesperson from Tillis’ office said they’ve been in direct contact with the Task Force at the U.S. State Department regarding this case. Their greatest limitation, however, involves the need to get information and authorization from foreign governments, which often can be a lengthy and frustrating process.
Additionally, a spokesperson said as foreign governments implement their own shelter in place and lockdown regulations, it can hamper their efforts to get North Carolinians back home.
American Airlines also released the following regarding the Holland’s canceled flight:
“American Airlines has tried to give as much notice as possible to our customers. However, government restrictions outside the U.S. have occurred suddenly, impacting our ability to operate to foreign countries. American continues to work with the U.S. State Department regarding options to assist our customers, along with other U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.”
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