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After Maria: The Voices Of Those Affected In Puerto Rico And Connecticut

Sep 29, 2017

A little more than a week after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the island has struggled to get the power back on, food and water distributed, and communication outside the capital of San Juan.

The voices of many Puerto Rican citizens -- both on the island and others living in the United States -- have been heard on WNPR. Some have been from Connecticut’s large Puerto Rican community, and others come from our partners at NPR and the New England News Collaborative.

Here are the voices of just a few of the people affected by Hurricane Maria:

“There [were] a lot of trees down. I was watching Irma, but Maria’s going to be harder.”
- Maria Sanchez-Cruz, restaurant owner in San Lorenzo, speaking before the storm

“I asked [my mother] to prepare and to save water. I gave her camping equipment so she can purify [water]. She did not, assuming that it was going to be a normal hurricane.”
- Charles Venator-Santiago, University of Connecticut

“The conditions are devastating. My sister lost her home, and my mother's town is impenetrable. I have no idea where to begin helping them!”
- Annette Medero via Facebook

View of the damage in Juncos.
Credit Frankie Colon

“This is the first time where I’ve seen such wall-to-wall, corner-to-corner, 100 percent population affected.”
- Dr. Robert Fuller, head of emergency medicine at the University of Connecticut, working in Puerto Rico

“Very worried -- have not heard from anyone yet. They still have no power, no tower for cells. Praying for everyone.”
- Lucelenia Roman via Facebook

“It is frustrating. It's frustrating waking up at 1, 2 in the morning, trying to call. You're trying to hope that they get that one little dot of a signal just to say, hey, are you OK?”
- James Sanchez, Hartford city councilman

"All we need is one contact. They'll tell everyone else."
- Marco Dorta, sitting on edge of expressway in Puerto Rico, looking for cell phone service

“We want to help, but we want to make sure that our immediate family members receive the help, so we’re at a loss as to how. My aunt said to us to just hold off on sending anything because she has no guarantee that anything would even get to her right now.”
- Eileen Vazquez, Hartford

"My husband is a kidney transplant survivor. He's diabetic and we don't have ice to store his insulin."
- Rivera Aviles, Cataño city council member

“My niece was telling me today that she was down to her last two bottles of water and had no food left, and she is breastfeeding. That hurt to hear!”
- Gretchka Martinez Rodriguez via Facebook

Charles Venator-Santiago, speaking on WNPR's Where We Live. He got a plane ticket for his mother to evacuate Puerto Rico just before going on air.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

“By last Friday, [my mother] had run out of food and by Saturday she had run out of water. Fortunately, my cousin who’s a medical doctor was able to rescue her and nurse her back to health. But she was catatonic and anxious and stressed.”
- Charles Venator-Santiago, University of Connecticut

“We won't be able to sit on our hands too much longer. Because it's our family.”
- Maribel La Luz, Hartford

“Some businesses have opened, like grocery stores, but they have a limited selection and limit how many items you can get.”
- Elizabeth Rodriguez via Facebook

"They're going to need money to go buy food. And eventually if that doesn't become available to them, you can't eat money if the food is not available to you."
- Annette Medero, Hartford

"There's no water anywhere else. Except the river. And that's dirty, dirty."
- Malin Rivera Malero, filling up water at a spring near Caguas

Boy waits for water to be distributed by the Puerto Rico National Guard in Utuado on September 26, 2017.
Credit Sgt. Jose Ahiram Diaz-Ramos / U.S. Army National Guard

"I've been here for six hours. I'll wait six hours more."
- Cindy Algarín, waiting in line for gas in Puerto Rico

“So many people are reliant on a health care delivery chain that’s been interrupted. That chain relies on power and fuel to move goods and meds to places where the patients can access them. The clinics where they might normally receive care in, likewise, need to be up and running.”
- Dr. Robert Fuller, head of emergency medicine at the University of Connecticut, working in Puerto Rico

Dr. Rob Fuller, right, and Carrie Vopelak, left, hear about the state of the hospital's ER from Dr. Robles after Hurricane Maria. International Medical Corps is in Puerto Rico to assess the damage and help those suffering in the wake of the storm.
Credit Ken Cedeno / International Medical Corps

“Update: call from family of lots of cleared areas in town, residents pulling together helping with clean-up. However no access to diesel, gasoline. Only emergency vehicles are working.”
- Annette Medero via Facebook, several hours after recording the earlier video

"This is historic. But what's really historic is the absence of our government."
- Alfred Rodrigo Maldorado

“This is a humanitarian crisis that is affecting citizens that are born in the United States. And the fact that we’re not sending ships or C-130s to rescue people is outrageous.”
- Charles Venator-Santiago, University of Connecticut

“I’ve been disappointed by the focus of this administration. It does not help when the President of the United States declares that things are going great in Puerto Rico and there aren’t any problems with food and water, when exactly the opposite is true.”
- Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

“We anticipate many families affected by the disaster in Puerto Rico may seek refuge in our state.  As required by federal law, it is imperative that young children who have been displaced are enrolled in schools immediately and are provided with health and other services necessary to ensure their academic success.”
- Governor Dannel Malloy (D-CT) in a statement

“Yes, there are 3.5 million American citizens on the island, but there’s 5 million citizens here across the country that are watching from afar.”
- Jason Ortiz, Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda

This story is part of “The Island Next Door,” WNPR’s reporting project about Puerto Rico and Connecticut after Hurricane Maria.