Puerto Rico: Hurricane Maria’s wrath

From left to right: Eddie Garcia, Emmanuel Ramos, and Rod Carter talk about conditions in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria's wrath.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson was in Tampa Friday, meeting with Puerto Rican leaders in the Bay area. The senator is discussing his recent trip to the hurricane-ravaged island, sharing what he saw and his assessment of the recovery efforts. Senator Nelson estimates about 30 percent of the island is still without power. He hopes the recovery will get a boost when the senate takes up a disaster spending bill next month.

We’ve assembled a collection of stories from people who visited the island after Hurricane Maria.

Eddie’s Story…

Eddie Garcia was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on November 22, 1958 to Carmen Davila, a single mother of seven. He was raised in public housing and attended public schools in San Juan’s inner city. He lives in Tampa and is a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army.

Following Hurricane Maria, he traveled back to his homeland Puerto Rico to lend a helping hand of support. What he saw shook him to his core. These are the stories he told me.

“I went to a home for abused children ages 0-8. Kids do not have bottled water, Pampers, wipes, very little food left. My heart is broken. I saw the faces of my grand kids in them.”

“West of the Island. Very difficult there. Some communities do not have contact because roads are inaccessible and they have no communication.”

“It’s a travesty.”

“One of the major problems is the infrastructure in terms of communication and electricity.”

“I’m right now in the corner and I’m afraid to move because I’m afraid I’m going to lose connection.”

“The devastation in terms of the electrical and communications infrastructure, that was devastating. And part of the anxiety is because people cannot communicate.”

“Eddie: I wanted to make a difference.

Rod: Do you think you did?

Eddie: No.

Rod: Why not?

Eddie: The devastation that you see and when you see people scrambling to get something to eat. When you see people with no medical attention. You see sick babies. When you see the desperation and the faces of people and you are not able to provide and to assist.”

Lt. Emmanuel Ramos’ Story…

Lt. Emmanuel Ramos went to visit family just days before the hurricane hit. He ended up riding the storm out with them. He told us what that was like and the days after.

“It was the worst storm that I ever been into… and my family too.”

“It was hard because after the hurricane there was no path anywhere… so you see all the neighbors cutting and making a path, ’cause there was no one out there to help nobody.”

“I can stay helping my family or I can come to the states to the Tampa Bay area and try to get some help to my family”

The Tzadek’s Ordeal

Orian and Katherine Tzadek moved to Puerto Rico from St. Petersburg more than a year ago. When Hurricane Maria slammed into the island, they rode the storm out with the two young children. When the storm passed, they were left stranded with little food and little hope. After WFLA News Channel 8 aired their story, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman got involved. He called the CEO of Tropic Ocean Airways. The flew the family back to the Mainland. We talked to them via Skype.

“I can’t even begin to describe the emotions we’ve been feeling. We’ve got a lot to do… it’s a bit overwhelming but we’re definitely excited to be here.”

Brian Silver, the Director of Operations and Captain of Tropics Ocean Airways, was on the flight that brought the couple back. He said though they can’t fly everyone for free, they aren’t stopping here.

“We’re going to try to do our best to fly back and forth. We have smaller aircraft but they’re very capable of flying quite a few supplies.”

“People don’t know where to get fresh drinking water. People are going to the natural springs to get fresh drinking water.”

“People are lining up for gas for literally half the day. They have to sit there… Or longer. Yeah they’ll spend the night there. The biggest thing is to raise awareness, I think… and show what is going on in Puerto Rico is the real thing.”

US Air Force plane prepares to bring Eddie Garcia back to US mainland. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
After Hurricane Marie, people in San Juan Puerto Rico wait in line for hours to get gas. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
After Hurricane Maria, people in Mayaguez Puerto Rico search for water. Here they get water from a fire hyrdrant. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
People wait in line for hours to get gas in their cars. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
People stand in line at gas station to fill containers with gas. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
Eddie Garcia and Lt. Emmanuel Ramos board Air Force jet to come back to Tampa after helping in Hurricane Maria relief effort. Photo by: Eddie Garcia
Damage from Hurricane Maria in Mayaguez Puerto Rico Photo by: Eddie Garcia
More Damage from Hurricane Maria in Mayaguez Puerto Rico Photo by: Eddie Garcia
Orian and Katherine Tzadek and their two children board a Tropic Ocean Airways flight headed back to Florida, after being trapped in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. Photo by: Orian and Katherine Tzadek