The camera crews have left, but recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria will take years. Ali Morales tells us what it’s like having family go through such a disaster.
Written by Ali Morales
Puerto Rico is very personal to me because it is and always will be my home.
Even now, seven months after Hurricane Maria, the reminders of a harsh reality remain. Most of my family is still there, so the stories keep coming directly from them.
The Lucky Ones
I consider my family one of the “lucky” ones. We were able to communicate with one another almost immediately after the storm and we knew this was a blessing. After Hurricane Irma, my mother had begun doing research on solar panels because she had no desire to go through another storm like that. Irma was a strong storm. My mom was without power for eight days.
But Maria was catastrophic. Before the hurricane hit, my sisters and I insisted that Mom fly out, but she was resolute on staying. She’s the strongest, most independent woman out there!
The Power of Solar Panels
While the full installation of the solar panels was unable to be completed due to the limited time in between storms, Mom had enough power to keep the fridge, lights, and ceiling fans on during the day. Those three things were a blessing and several family members moved in with her to help support each other.
Before the hurricane hit, my sisters and I insisted that Mom fly out, but she was resolute on staying.
The daily grind became too much though. There were endless lines at gas stations with no guarantee there would be any gas left when it was your turn; people waited in 10-hour grocery store lines only to find empty shelves, and everyone was on the search for batteries and generators—all before curfew. And this was just in the San Juan area. I can’t even imagine what our neighbors in the remote mountain towns were going through.
A Flight Out
I was deeply moved by the generosity of the many people in our lives who quickly asked how they could help. It was community at its best! A complete stranger even helped us find a relief flight out of Puerto Rico for my mom, after multiple flight cancellations. Finally, on October 9, Mom arrived in Florida.
A month after Hurricane Maria, I was finally able to speak with a dear childhood friend. When I asked how she was doing, she hesitated to answer. She said, “We’re physically fine by the grace of God, but it is hard.” She shared what her days were like, what her needs were, and her thoughts on the long, long road ahead for Puerto Rico. And she quite honestly warned me to encourage Mom not to return yet.
“We’re physically fine by the grace of God, but it is hard.”
Don’t Go Home
But how do you tell someone not to go back home? I shared that with Mom and she chuckled. This woman has a plan. She continues to develop a new life while away, but still keeps her eye on home.
The uncomfortable dialogue of the harsh reality in Puerto Rico remains, especially among those of us who consider it personal. But what prevails is the love for country, the appreciation for the support and help offered from many countries, and the incredible resilience that shines through it all.
Seacoast continues to support the efforts of our global missions partner, Water Mission, in their efforts to provide safe water to over 40 communities in Puerto Rico. In early May, Seacoast is also sending a mission team to Puerto Rico to work alongside another of our partners, Citi Impact, to rebuild and clean up local homes and churches in Luquillo, just 30 minutes from San Juan.
What about you? So much still needs to be done, especially in the rural areas. For more information on how to support Seacoast’s disaster assistance mission to Puerto Rico this May, please visit seacoast.org/missions.