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Sep 27 2017
by Camelia Pesquera

What It Was Like Being Away from My Family in Puerto Rico During Hurricane María

By Camelia Pesquera - Sep 27 2017
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On Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico with a category 5 rating and 175 mph winds, leaving the island devastated. Many problems ensued, like the complete destruction of the island’s infrastructure, but most important to me was the falling of the communication towers, which left the island disconnected from the outside world.

That same day at 6 a.m., I received the last text from my mom that I would get for the next 72 hours. It read, “We are gonna lose signal, we are okay, it's very strong, I love you.” Those are the words that would replay in my mind for the next 3 days as constantly tried to get in contact with my family.

I can honestly say that those 72 hours were the most desperate of my life. All over social media, other Puerto Ricans studying in the US were equally anxious, trying to get in contact with their families.

As time progressed, the news of friends who had been able to communicate with their families bombarded social media, causing more desperation amongst those of us who still had not heard anything. People in the island had been occupying the highways trying to get a signal in order to call their family in the states. Facebook had become the main source of information. Pictures of the devastation across the island continued to emerge, causing an increased sense of agony and anguish.

Adapting to living away from home has been a difficult process, and as those pictures surged, I couldn’t hold back the need of wanting to go back home. Freshman year is hard at its core. It means having a new home, meeting new people, and the hardest part, being away from your family. 

Being a country away from your family makes it even harder. However, as I awaited response from anyone from Puerto Rico, I realized that I was not alone in this process. All of my international student friends from Puerto Rico were in the same positions as I was, and their support was indispensable.

And suddenly, it was 12 p.m. on Friday, September 22. I received a phone call from a phone number I didn't recognize. To my surprise, it was my mother calling from a remote place close to our neighborhood. Although we only spoke for around five minutes before the call was interrupted, my happiness was inexplicable. Throughout this horrific ordeal, I have not been able to communicate with my parents as much as I would like to, but I’m grateful that I am able to know that they’re fine.

Feeling the same anguish that I felt, Puerto Ricans in universities across the U.S. have become proactive about the situation. GoFundMe pages and other fundraising activities surged all throughout social media in attempts to aid family and friends undergoing this catastrophe. If you wish to donate any amount of money, a GoFundMe page, “Students with Puerto Rico,” has been created by students from Puerto Rico all across the United States. The GoFundMe will donate all its money to Unidos Por Puerto Rico. This fund was created by the First Lady of Puerto Rico in an effort to centralize the collection of relief funds for Puerto Rico. The money will be used to buy, food, basic necessities, building materials and to pay the logistics for the transportation of these items, among other things. Please do your part in helping Puerto Rico rebuild itself! #StudentsWithPuertoRico 

Lead Image Credit: Roosevelt Skerrit via Flickr Creative Commons

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Camelia Pesquera - American University

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