Puerto Rico Se Levanta

The river is flooded, and before the hurricane we never saw the buildings or  the river because of the trees that are no longer there.

The river is flooded, and before the hurricane we never saw the buildings or the river because of the trees that are no longer there.

By Clara Garcia, Staff Writer

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The tenth most destructive hurricane in world history, named Maria, made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20th this year. Around 6:15 a.m., the people of Yabucoa, a city on the southeastern coast, were the first to feel the natural disaster that would change the way we see the island forever.

Nobody wrapped their heads around the amount of destruction a category 5 hurricane entailed. In most affected cities, it looked like bombs had dropped. My city was one of those. The eye of the hurricane passed through my hometown of Caguas, a city about twenty-five minutes south of the capitol of Puerto Rico, San Juan.

No description of the night of the hurricane will do justice to how horrible it felt. My family and I woke up between 3 and 4 a.m. because of the strong noise the wind made against our shutters. The walls of our apartment were vibrating because the building was adjusting to the 200 mph winds for almost 12 hours. There were so many horrible sounds, and staying hidden in the bathroom (in case a window exploded) didn’t make it any better.

Needless to say, the paralyzation of the island brought chaos in the first few weeks. Dead bodies were accumulating at the morgues. There were cases of leptospirosis and bacterial infections that are caused by drinking contaminated water (nearly 1.5 million people didn’t have access to clean drinking water).

Typical medical treatments for diabetes or powerful antibiotics were running out. People who needed dialysis couldn’t get it since there was no power. There weren’t many truck drivers going to work to distribute gasoline, and those that were had to be escorted by the police. There were 12 hour-long lines at the gas stations, etc. The final death toll was 495 people. Watching those events was heartbreaking.

Surprisingly, some good things did result from the hurricane. Since we didn’t (and many still don’t) have electricity, families stepped outside and hung out to socialize and get some fresh air. My family and I, among millions of other families, got to know our neighbors much better. The whole island got closer following the natural disaster.

A lot of families took this opportunity to move off of the island. On October 9th, The Miami Herald reported that 27,000 Puerto Ricans had travelled to Florida, most of them settling in Orlando. CBS News Correspondent, David Begnaud, has reported that 235,000 Puerto Ricans have arrived to Florida. I am included in that number of people.

Twelve days after the storm, my dad gave me and my mom the news that we got standby plane tickets on a humanitarian flight less than 24 hours before leaving. My dad stayed behind but arrived later. A week later, my mom went back to Puerto Rico to stay because she had to work. My family was not the only one that got separated. Most of my friends not only left the island, but they left a sister, a grandmother, or a nephew behind.

The transition has been hard, especially in school. Not just because I barely know anybody, but because I missed two months of school and I’m still learning how things work around here. I feel so fortunate that I chose to come to Miami Senior High. I don’t think any other school in Miami Dade County would’ve helped me as much as the staff here did. I plan on staying here for the next few months and graduate with the class of 2018.

On another note, it was very disappointing to see Donald Trump, the man in the most powerful seat in the country, mock us by coming to visit the island and then throwing out paper towels to people. He put us in an uncomfortable position by saying that Puerto Ricans have thrown his budget ‘a little out of whack’ and reminded us of our debt. He also mentioned that supplies from FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) weren’t going to last forever and called Hurricane Maria ‘not much of a tragedy compared to Hurricane Katrina.’

On the other hand, celebrities such as Fifth Harmony, Pitbull, Stephen Colbert started donating and urging their fans to do the same. Playwright, composer, lyricist, and actor Lin Manuel Miranda, who is responsible for one of the most famous Broadway shows of all time, “Hamilton”, wrote and released a song titled “Almost Like Praying” with many famous singers from Puerto Rico and Cuba. The proceeds of the song went to the Hispanic Federation.

There was even a concert called ‘One Voice: Somos Live!’ for Texas, Mexico, and Puerto Rico being broadcast on television to raise money for natural disaster relief. Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, who are of Puerto Rican descent, headlined the show and people like DJ Khaled, Camila Cabello, Nicky Jam, and Bad Bunny also performed. Other celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Zoe Saldana, Alex Rodriguez, and Jamie Foxx stayed behind the stage to answer calls about donations.

Even though it has been over two months since the hurricane, the damages are still an issue. Many are still suffering, but we are making progress. As a nation and a fearless community, we will rise again. ¡Puerto Rico sí se levanta!



September 6th – Hurricane Irma made landfall, killing 4 people.

September 18th – Gov. Ricardo Roselló declared state of emergency.

September 20th – Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico

September 21st – The island is declared a disaster zone and officials warn restoring the island’s power could take eight months to a year.

September 30th – The Pentagon reported that 55% of Puerto Rico, or about 1.87 million people, don’t have clean drinking water.

October 3rd – Donald Trump visits Puerto Rico for the first time.

December 15th – A little over 40% of the island still doesn’t have electricity.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/10/what-happened-in-puerto-rico-a-timeline-of-hurricane-maria/541956/,  and CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud’s twitter account

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