Disclaimer: This post has been written in a “blog post” style. It’s not meant to be informative. It’s meant to give a glimpse to the outside world of what we’re going through and serve as my own creative outlet to cope with each challenging day. Thank you for reading.
It’s 7:22am of September 26th, 2017. As I type these words at my parents’ house, without electricity and the incessant sound of generators around their neighborhood, I have no idea if I’ll be able to find a hotspot nearby and publish this. We lost 100% of power in the island, 100% water (40% has been reestablished as of September 25th) and all communications (26% has been reestablished in the metro area, but it’s barely noticeable).
Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017, and the aftermath has been like living inside a season of The Walking Dead. I haven’t been able to drive around that much, since gasoline is scarce at this time. The lines at gas stations are monumental. The only day I was able to get some gas, I spent four hours and a half in line. My friends and I called it a “Gas Run”. Two days ago my neighbor spent nine hours in line, and today I just heard on the radio that thousands of people have showed up at gas stations, because they are being called to work, but how can we go to work if we have no gas and getting it is unsafe?
Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria looks like total chaos. Trees were burnt so bad people on the outside could think we got hit by a bomb instead, but the standing concrete buildings give hurricane Maria away.
Yesterday I spent almost three hours under the scorching sun in line for cash. The maximum amount you can withdraw is $500, yet everywhere you go it says “Cash Only” and a food run can easily cost you $200 between water, batteries and enough food for your family. We called yesterday a “Double Run Day: Cash and Food”.
I managed to find a hotspot at a closed Famous Dave’s restaurant that was kind enough to post “Open Wi-Fi” on their glass doors. A few businesses have opened their networks to help us get in touch with our families. My Facebook newsfeed looked so eerie. Only my friends and family from the United States or outside of Puerto Rico have been posting desperate pleads to find their missing relatives. “No news is good news”, the radio host keeps telling unsettled callers as I keep writing.
When all my WhatsApp messages started to pop on my cellphone, most where friends and family in complete anguish: “Limari, are you ok? Is Liam ok? Are your parents ok?” “Limari, can you read me?” “Please call us Limari, we can’t sleep without knowing you are ok.” “How can we help you? We feel so useless.” Every message I read made me cry and I tried desperately to call any of them. The phone started ringing and my aunt’s voice answered on the other side with a shaky “Hello?”
I just started rambling, and crying. She started telling me to convince my parents to leave the island. Telling me to take my child and go. Most people in the US are pleading their relatives to evacuate after the crisis.
People are talking about unsanitary living, potential diseases and mosquito-borne illnesses, but what happens if we all leave at once? Who will stay and rebuild our once beautiful Puerto Rico? “It’s too early to make any decision, Tití.” I told her. “We are not okay, but we are surviving. One day at a time. I promise if things get really bad we’ll go.” And with that, I hung up.
I was able to get out a second call to my boss, who is in Florida. Trying not to cry, I told him there was no way I could get to work because I have no gas, and the day before I didn’t even have any cash. He sounded more concerned for my safety.
Many Puerto Ricans are in sheer terror today. Not only do we have to worry about potable water, non-perishable food, gasoline and batteries, but also, most of us fear that we will lose our jobs. Puerto Rico was already in debt before hurricane Maria, how will we survive this blow? The few times I have ventured out close to my parents’ home, many businesses remain closed one week after the hurricane. I work in marketing, and used to pride myself in working from anywhere in the world, but today, that world doesn’t include Puerto Rico, since moving to a hotspot and coming back consumes almost a quarter of my gas tank.
Puerto Rico is not the same Puerto Rico you remember. We have gone back decades, but the danger in that is that people know what is like to live with 21st century commodities. Food storages and stores are being looted. Gas stations are afraid to dispatch gasoline because it’s not safe. A couple of days ago a paramedic at a hospital killed a man because he was trying to steal Diesel...
We are anxiously waiting the reopening of the United States Post Office, so our families can send us provisions. In the meantime, the only thing we can do is survive. And when I say survive, I don’t mean drinking water and eating, I mean mental and spiritual resilience. In times like these, I go back to Viktor Frankl’s words for comfort:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”