All is well, but boy oh boy, do I have a story to tell. Everything has changed. Nothing will ever be exactly the same. A historical natural disaster that will never be forgotten, has drastically altered the lives of myself and every single person that I know in Puerto Rico. It all happened so fast I didn’t see it coming. In fact, none of us saw it coming, except weathermen and possibly psychics. Actually, that’s not true. We did see it coming. We were warned, but after the false Irma scare we didn’t really take the Maria warning as seriously as we should have. By the time the realization hit us that Maria was a real threat, everyone was scrambling at once to snatch up the scarcely limited available resources.
I am a writer and storyteller by nature, but this is one story that I find it incredibly difficult to relive in order to tell so please bare with me. It has been three months and I still can’t find the words to properly share this experience with others without choking on my tears. I am still in the awkward process of gaining a new understanding, reforming a slightly altered state of mind, and creating a new reality of the world that I live in. While my heart and soul remains the same, everything around me has changed. I have always been graced with the ability to easily adapt, but the series of events I lived through these past months most definitely had me utilizing every survival skill, Girl Scout knowledge, and ounce of patience and faith that I have within me. Even though I will never ever forget this time of my life, the days nights and events got blurred from our lack of communication with the outside world so I had been taking careful notes to remember the timeline of events.
On September 20th, 2017 life as we knew it on Puerto Rico was forever changed. Barely a couple weeks after Hurricane Irma showed mercy and altered her pathway away from us, we were given very little time to prepare for the next round of hurricanes that were lined up to hit us directly. Due to the last minute detour that Irma took, a lot of people expected the same from Maria and did not prepare themselves and their households properly to defend against the incoming storms.
I was sheltered safely within the abandoned Bumble Bee Tuna Factory along the port of Mayaguez but thousands of others did not have the protection that I did and suffered in more ways than the media let on to the public. The storm alone was horrifying, but the aftermath is what left some of us scarred forever. Maria not only broke records with her ferocious wind speeds, but she annihilated everything in her pathway shattering homes and spirits alike. Many are homeless and in dire need, while some are merely using this disaster as an excuse to act like the savages they are deep down inside. Once the 150+ mile an hour winds and constant downpour stopped it took only a matter of days for the chaos to begin. Loss of our amenities was just the beginning, next came the loss of sanity, morals, law and order. Houses fell on humans, animals were abandoned, elderly were left to fend for themselves, homes and hospitals were looted, cars and people were high jacked along the highway while attempting to forage for supplies for their families, and a new world was created over night. We have always joked here in Rincon that we live in the Wild Wild West, but what transpired after the hurricane was something more akin to Mad Max.
After almost a decade of being attached to my phone and highly active on all my platforms of social media due to my businesses in the marketing and public service industry, all of a sudden without notice no one could get a hold of me in any way. I went completely radio silent to the world around me for almost two whole months. The aftermath of Hurricane Maria demanded so much of my personal time, strength, and energy that I truly forgot that there was still an entire world out there off this island. I forgot that there were people out there who know me and love me and who had been sick with worry about my lack of communication as they sat back on the mainland watching God only knows what on the news about the state of Puerto Rico post Hurricane Maria. After over a month, I was finally able to tap into my social media accounts, and what I saw brought me to tears. It was an eerie sensation akin to following yourself into your own funeral and hearing people mourn over you, talk about how loved you were and how much you meant to everyone. I was alive and well and helping others all around me, but no one knew it except the people here in Puerto Rico who had tracked me down in person or left notes on my door or throughout town for me to find.
Everywhere you look houses are ripped apart, flooded or completely sunken into the soft soil they previously rested upon. Cars are smashed by flying debris, upturned from the wind, or abandoned roadside without gas to refuel. Power lines are dangling everywhere and many of the poles have been cut into pieces to clear roadways. Animals are deserted and joining up in rough street packs to scavange for themselves or left for dead. Mayhem everywhere the eye can see, and yet its the trees that make my eyes water and spill over. This is normally my favorite time of the year in Puerto Rico. This is our wet season when the island vegetation takes over in every shade of green the color wheel has to offer and some that your eyes never knew existed. Now all I see is brown. Mud covers everything and the trees are completely naked. What my eyes see makes it hard to remember where I actually am. This beautiful island that I have called home for the last four years. This island that healed me, empowered me, and changed me in all the right and necessary ways is left battered and bruised and needing our compassion and unconditional love so desperately right now. Puerto Rico and its people are strong and we have already made great efforts towards repairing our beautiful island. Many who remained here after the hurricane joined or created relief groups and rounded up and delivered supplies all across the island. Waves For Water and Watts of Love are just two of several nonprofit organizations that got involved and are still doing lots to bring supplies to the people remaining on the island.
Something like this changes you. It breaks you down into pieces and puts you back together, but the sum total is different. Nothing will ever be exactly the same. This new life is our reality now and I am already used to it. The lives we lived before Hurricane Maria already seems like a distant dream, or another life entirely perhaps. While the media normally tends to over or under exaggerate the status of our island lives, the reality is probably not too far from the truth this time.
I have posted some of the things I saw and lived through during Hurricane Maria and the aftermath on my Facebook Page. You can follow this link Cloud 9 Casitas: Hurricane Maria to access the photo album I created. Please do not reuse any of my photos without my permission or giving me credit and linking me to your posts.