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The Ones Who Stayed

By Alexus Rios

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 20th, 2017, it wreaked havoc on the island causing widespread destruction and disorganization in American History. Two weeks had passed after the storm and most of the island residents lacked access to electricity and clean water. This was the worst storm to strike the island and will haunt the residents for many years to come.

The scale of the destruction of the hurricane was devastating and for months after the initial disaster, most families and businesses remained without power, clean water, food, medicine, and limited cell phone service. Unable to have their basic needs met, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans left altogether but what did this mean for those who choose to stay.

Many people are still struggling to get enough food, access to social services, like healthcare, and cope with the emotional stress of losing homes and loved ones.

I interviewed a family friend (who prefers to keep his identity private) that currently lives in New Jersey and is a retired security officer, who grew up in Puerto Rico. Growing up he remembered Puerto Rico being a lot of things “ Man growing up in Puerto Rico was definitely something different before I came to New York, I never thought I would be bullied for my accent, but looking back at it, I’m glad I left because look at it now”. He had a very humble upbringing and grew up in a house with his mother, father, and 6 siblings. He recalls being in the sun all the time and enjoying the presence of his family, culture, and food. Although he does not regret his decision moving to New York he was saddened by the way his people back home are getting treated in this time of need.

He felt that he was lucky enough to be able to afford moving out of Puerto Rico and to get a job that would help support his mother who decided to stay. He expressed that even though he did not experience the hurricane himself, he was mentally distraught and will never forget that feeling and horrible thoughts running through his head of what could have happened to his mother who is 90 years old and was all by herself at the time without knowing if she was alive or not. “It was the worst feeling ever, I was scared and felt hopeless and I really thought she had died. I was never going to forgive myself for not being there to help her out. Man I tried calling so many time but since the electricity was out I never got an answer and it was just horrible. “ 

After this interview took place I realized how a disaster can not only destroy someone’s home but also their hope and faith in a government that is supposed to help them in a time of need. Luckily enough the people of Puerto Rico were resilient to come together and help each other. Even though they should not have to only depend on themselves, they realized that if they were not going to help themselves then who was? Some were reconnected with their families and others sadly were not so lucky.


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