TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA)—The first post-hurricane commercial flight from San Juan, Puerto Rico arrived at Tampa International Airport Saturday afternoon. Southwest flight 618 was scheduled to arrive at 3pm but was delayed about an hour. Anxious family members and friends of the passengers waited outside of Gate C for their arrival.
“I’m waiting for my brother, my sister in law and my two nieces. My baby nieces. One is one year old the other is seven,” said Mariselle Torres, who was waiting with her husband Javier Aleman. The couple just moved to Tampa from Puerto Rico a year ago and say watching what happened to their homeland is heartbreaking.
“It hasn’t passed a day since the hurricane that we haven’t cried. To be very very honest. It’s very tough to watch the videos of what’s going on over there,” said Aleman. “We talk with our relatives and they say that they are okay and they’re doing fine, but in reality we know they’re struggling. They’re missing basic things. They’re waiting in lines for hours to get gas, to get money out of ATM’s.”
The couple knew they needed to do something, so when they were able to purchase one-way tickets for Mariselle’s brother, his wife and their two young children—there was no hesitation. Since the hurricane, they have tried helping, but their efforts haven’t been very successful. “We have sent packages, but they’re in transit, but they haven’t gotten to them yet,” said Aleman.
When the family arrived, there were tears and hugs. Juan Torres was the only one who didn’t appear emotional. He says he has to stay strong for his wife and their daughters during such a difficult time. “I don’t know. I try to stay calm, not to cry, but when we arrive here we saw all the Puerto Ricans waving the flag. It was beautiful,” said Juan. “But I have to stay calm.”
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