When it started, September 20 , 2017…
It was early in the morning and my mom was still awake. We could hear through the shutters loud screeches of the wind tossing and breaking everything in it’s way. My mom would constantly wake me up and drag me to different rooms looking for the safest place to hide and right now, it was our bathroom. We laid in the shower floor along with our dogs and pillows to soften the tile beneath our bodies. From time to time i would peak through our small uncovered window and watch how the furious wind blew so hard it was starting to rip the house we had next door apart. A house that used to belong to my great-grandmother, abandoned now of course but filled wth lots of sentimental value. So in a way it was quite painful to see it slowly get ripped to pieces. My mom started crying and singing and i realized i really didn’t know what a category 5 hurricane was capable of. I remained calm trying to get her to relax and soon enough we switched from the bathroom to her room for like the 20th time that day and drifted to sleep with Maria playing in the background.
That same morning i woke up to my mom’s cries and a really bright light coming from the hallway. I got up, made my way outside and for a moment i swear i literally did not recognize my home. My brain and mind were mixing up in every way possible and all i remember clearly was asking myself : “What in the world happened?”
The palm tree my older brother planted when he was four, gone. The water cistern i filled up all afternoon the day before, gone and destroyed. The trees? They were all in the ground or brown, burned and dry. I walked down our hill and saw our neighbors outside their houses picking up trees, scratching their heads , sitting in their stairs. It was sad and eye tearing to see so many lost faces just like mine…
After that day i found myself constantly checking my cellphone from time to time in hope of seeing at least a small bar of signal but it only read “No Service”. There was no electricity, no water and the streets were impossible to drive through. I was thankful that most of my family lived near me and i could shortly know if they were okay, wish they were. But even our physical wellness could not take away that piercing pain we felt in inside when it came to the reality that we lost everything. We lost our job, we lost family, we lost our cars, money, our house, we lost a life that needs to be reconstructed again.
The endless hours in line in gas stations where one of the many bad daily struggles we had to go through. The amount of people in line for just $10 or $20 dollars worth of gas was horrifying. I can truly say i’ve never, ever witnessed or even thought until this day the feeling a huge amount of people in a place could give you. Because it wasn’t just people being there, it was kids with under the sun with their red cheeks, babies crying for formula that wasn’t there, old people in pain of standing for hours, it was bodies in agony, bodies in frustration all together waiting in line for one thing, gas. The grocery stores didn’t open after a while of settling and when they did it was surprising seeing how we needed to literally run to get food and water before it was gone, that was our reality. As soon as they opened the doors you could smell right away the stench of dead meat and rotten milk in the very back of the store.
Two weeks later we received a visit from our famous president Donald Trump and i want you to see a picture on how well it went:
By this time only 5% of the population had electricity, half remained without drinkable water, one third of the hospitals could not provide adequate service and telecommunications were still severely limited. Even with this being a well proven fact, Trump decided to confidently believe that the only number of deaths in Puerto Rico were 17….
Despite rigorous studies from researchers at George Washington University arriving at that number (and a Harvard study suggesting it might even be understated) Trump decides to stay in denial of the actual number of deaths he claims he never witnessed the knowledge of on his visit… just two weeks after Maria. Being present two weeks after a natural disaster that has chaotically destroyed an island will not give you the reality that an entire month can and will uncover. He pointed to the artificially low death toll as evidence that his Administration was responding appropriately, when, in reality, a humanitarian catastrophe was befalling our fellow American citizens.
And his response…
I can keep going on and on but i prefer not to because the bad things can be so many but there is always that light at the end of the tunnel. Even though going through these necessities was a horrible process and excruciating experience i believe it was a very good and necessary lesson for many of us. Not having water led me to reuniting myself with old neighbors every night in a small natural spring while we washed our clothes one by one, hand by hand. Not having electricity made me really know who cares for me in times in need, who came home and left a note, a gallon of water or a simple can of tuna cause they couldn’t find me and wanted to make sure my family and i were okay. It helped me connect with our nature, see how burned and dry sticks could bloom to their natural green again just like us Puerto Ricans can rise from the ground . How walking to my grandma’s house can be better than driving and how thankful i am that i have a family that stands there for each other. Maria has been one of the toughest lessons in life for sure but it has been the one that has taught me the most about life.
Not even the toughest storm on earth can take my Puerto Rican soul and my plantain stain away from me!
Picture: Copyrights belong to The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2017/oct/04/trump-throws-paper-towels-into-crowd-in-puerto-rico-video