Hurricane Maria leaves Caribbean island devastated; UNF Puerto Rican students react

Alexandra Torres-Perez

To many, a trip to Puerto Rico’s sandy, clear beaches and tropical rainforests sounds like paradise, but to me Puerto Rico is more than just a paradise island–it’s my home. It is a place I am proud to be born and raised from, and is currently still home to several family members and friends.

These past couple of weeks have been tough on my island. They were grazed by Hurricane Irma, the strongest hurricane recorded in history last week. They have been experiencing several earthquakes in the past couple of days, and now they are about to be struck by what the National Hurricane Center is calling a “potential catastrophic” category 5 hurricane.

“We are expecting a very tough hurricane, the worst hurricane in modern history in Puerto Rico,” Governor Ricardo Rosello told Anderson Cooper late Tuesday.

As a child growing up on the island, I remember storms clearly because even a tropical storm would take away our electricity and water for weeks, and sometimes months. I remember collecting water in buckets, and remember my mom heating up some of the water with the little power we had from our generator, something we were lucky to have, so we could take a hot shower.

Hurricane Maria is expected to have devastating effects on Puerto Rico from flash floods to mudslides. This has several Puerto Rican UNF students worried about their friends and family.

Laurielys Cheeseman, a sophomore studying American Sign Language, was able to speak to her grandparents who live near the capital of San Juan today. Her grandparents told her that their house was fully flooded, their gate was coming down, and there was an unrooted tree in the middle of the road.

Her family has lost water and electricity. According to the Puerto Rico Office of Emergency Management Agency, the whole island has lost power due to Hurricane Maria. In the middle of their conversation, Cheeseman heard the power line go down, which cut off their conversation.

“I don’t know when I’ll be able to call them,” Cheeseman said. “They are my grandparents and they’re alone.”

Cheeseman is not the only one who can’t get in contact with her loved ones. Shayra Flores-Velez tried to contact her grandparents and sister, but she still hasn’t heard from either of them. She is worried because they live around four blocks from the beach. Another student, Yangel Rosario, received images of the damage from his family members, but is having a hard time getting in contact with them.

“We stand with the families that are affected, and our prayers go out to them,” President of the Latin American Student Organization Laura Sanchez said. “We are hoping to plan something to help out in any way we can.”


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