Hours before hurricane Dorian pounded the Bahamas and obliterated entire neighbourhoods, Alishia Sabrina Liolli asked her friends and loved ones on social media to pray for her family and the small island she called home.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified; but the dogs, chickens, husband & children are inside and everything is batted down the best we could!” the 27-year-old Ontario woman wrote on Facebook at 11:42 p.m. on Saturday, just before the full thrust of the storm hit. “I love you all — please pray for our Bahamasland, especially our Abaco. We will keep everyone updated as best we can!”
In the hours and days since Dorian hit, her friends and family desperately tried to reach Liolli, fearing the worst.
On Thursday, Liolli was confirmed to be one of at least 20 people killed during the storm.
Liolli’s family took to social media to express their shock and sadness at the news.
“Can’t believe this is real … a life taken too soon,” her cousin, Aislinn Liolli, said in a Facebook post. “I lost my best friend, my confidante, my rock, my person. Alishia you were a ray of sunshine, always grateful, would give the shirt off your back to anyone. You made the world a better place.”
Alishia was ”always smiling, always joking, able to make anyone feel better,” Aislinn Liolli said.
Childhood friend Alysha Cardinale-Soderberg said she was “numb” after hearing about Liolli’s death.
“I just don’t know how to deal with it,” she said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.
Alishia Sabrina Liolli grew up in a small town near Windsor, Ont., and met Cardinale-Soderberg when the two were nine years old.
The pair was inseparable — going to elementary school and high school together before parting ways for university.
Ryan McKenna, another friend, said he first met Liolli at Toronto’s Ryerson University. As a residence adviser and slightly older than the incoming first-year students, Alishia was the de facto leader of the floor at Pittman Hall, a student residence at the university, McKenna said.
“I always called her ‘mom,’” he said. “She was always looking after me, an 18-year-old kid from P.E.I in the big city for the first time.”
Liolli moved to the Bahamas in 2013 to volunteer at Every Child Counts, a vocational school that helps children with autism. She later helped build a new school with the organization and has since been running the program that helps adults with autism.
Her husband and the children all survived, Cardinale-Soderberg said.
The family has launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to bring Liolli’s body to Canada. Any extra money raised would be used to help rebuild the school where she worked, which was heavily damaged in the storm.
Hurricane Dorian continues to pummel the east coast of the United States and is expected to hit Canada’s Atlantic provinces by the weekend.
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press