So I just got off the phone with my dad.
Literally five minutes before sitting down to write this.
He and my mom were driving from my parents’ place in the Río Piedras section of San Juan over to my sister’s home right outside of town in Guaynabo.
Her entire house was flooded on Wednesday when the storm hit, and my folks wanted to help with the cleanup.
They’re all safe, and doing as well as can be expected. And I feel extremely fortunate right now because everyone I know is O.K. But as my dad was making that trip to my sister’s, the things he was seeing and describing to me over the phone almost seemed like they were made up.
He told me that in and around San Juan there are just trees and telephone poles and power lines down everywhere. Concrete poles just cracked in half and were in pieces along the side of the road. And you know those huge steel towers that link up power lines? Those things came crashing down all over the place. So they’re just knocked over, lying there, with all the lines broken off and going every which way.
He said it looked like a giant bomb went off.
My family members told me they’ve never seen anything like what happened when María came through.
As he was driving, my dad kept telling me about the detours he had to take because a bunch of roads were blocked, or covered with debris, or just completely flooded.
And every few seconds I’d hear this gasp — sometimes it would be him, other times, my mom. Then he’d tell me about some building with half its walls missing. Or a car that was completely under water. Or some other level of destruction that he never thought he’d experience in his lifetime.
My dad’s a strong guy. But I could tell he was impacted by it all.
After a while, it was like he ran out of words to describe what he was seeing. So the longer the call went on, the less he said.
We’d both seen the same news reports, with government officials estimating that there won’t be any electricity in Puerto Rico for four months. And at one point as he was driving, my dad’s voice cut out right in the middle of talking about the damage to my sister’s house. I thought maybe the phone went dead, that I’d lost connection.
Hello? Hello? Can you hear me?
Then his voice came back.
The phone hadn’t gone out. He’d just stopped talking for a few moments. Then he came back in and said something completely unrelated to what he had been talking about before.
“There’s no way we’re going to have electricity back in four months. That’s not gonna happen.”
I told him that four months is a while. “It’s longer than you think,” is what I said.
“There’s no way, son.”
He said that a few times to me.
He was just convinced that four months wouldn’t be enough time to get the power back.
“Not back from … this.”
Both my dad and my sister told me they’ve never seen anything like what happened when María came through.
Nothing even close.
My folks have a zinc roof on part of their house. And it’s a pretty sturdy roof, well made. He said that during the storm, when the winds were really kicking up, he and my mom heard some loud creaking noises and weren’t sure what it was. Then, all of a sudden, that roof blew off the house like a sheet of paper. Like it was nothing.
The same thing happened to a bunch of our neighbors’ homes, too. There were just all these zinc roofs flying around in the sky at different points during the night.
That neighborhood where my folks live, they just recently lost power when Irma came through and then just a few weeks later, you have María. It has just been one after the other. And everyone is really tired at this point.
At my wife’s parents’ place, on the other side of the island, they lost the wooden roof to their living room. And then the water just came streaming in.
Almost everyone I’ve talked to down there is missing a roof at this point.
They don’t know what to do.
And those are only the people I know about, the ones I’ve been able to reach. There are so many others, friends — people I’ve been close to for years and years — who I’ve been unable to reach. I keep sending text messages. But I don’t think they are getting through.
I’m just not getting anything back. It’s really tough right now.
I’m worried about my friends.
My parents and my sister are very sad about the damage to their houses, and the devastation they have been seeing over the past few days. They worry about all the people who they know are struggling to get what they need, and about the damage that has been done to an island we all love so much. It has been overwhelming for them, to be honest, not knowing how long it will be before things can get back to the way they were.
What they’ve seen during the past few days — that devastation, and all that damage — it takes a toll on you.
By comparison, my wife, Laura, and I had it easy. We were at our home in Miami watching the storm bear down on TV.
But you know what? That was one of the most agonizing experiences of my entire life.
We were glued to that TV until late into the night, and then, of course, we couldn’t sleep very well, so we woke up early in the morning to watch the news reports and The Weather Channel again.
We felt so powerless.
In that situation, you just feel….
There were so many parts of the island that were hit hard by this storm, but because San Juan is the largest city in Puerto Rico, a lot of the media attention focused on the capital. And that made it even tougher for me. It’s an area I know well, and close to where I grew up. So as I’m watching the news reports I’m seeing places along the water that I remember from when I was a kid, or restaurants that I go to when I’m back home … and they’re just getting pummeled. No mercy. Just water and wind everywhere.
It was all just really emotional for me. Puerto Rico is my home. It’s a piece of who I am. A big piece.
I can’t even put it into words.
At one point, Laura turned away from the TV and just looked up at the ceiling, and then she looked over at me with this look of purpose. Like just a totally determined look.
“Jorge, we have to do something.”
She kept saying that.
“We have to do something. What can we do? We need to do something right now. This is important.”
Within a few hours we had started the Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief Fund at youcaring.com to raise money to purchase and deliver basic supplies to people whose lives have been torn apart by this hurricane.
Then, as soon as the fundraising site was done, I opened up my phone, went to my contacts list, and started sending messages to people with names starting with the letter A.
I went through every contact I have in that phone, every single one, all the way to Z, asking people to join us in pledging money to help the people of Puerto Rico.
It’s rough right now down there. I’m not going to lie.
People don’t have power. There’s no water. Homes all over the island are damaged or completely destroyed. Things are bad.
Here’s something I know for a fact, though: We are going to get through this.
We will find a way.
I’m certain of it.
The people of Puerto Rico have great hearts, and we know what it means to come through for each other in a time of need, and to fight through adversity. It’s part of our culture. And it’s something I experienced again and again growing up there as a kid.
I know in my heart that we’re going to find a way to come out of this stronger than ever. And my wife and I just want to help out any way we can.
So, we’d like to ask you for a favor.
Please go to the youcaring.com page listed below and help us to provide much-needed supplies to people who could really use them right now. Anything you can give would be much appreciated, and if you’re unable to give, maybe you could just keep Puerto Rico in your prayers over the upcoming days, weeks, and months.
We will make sure that the people of Puerto Rico get the benefits of every dollar raised, and we’ll be providing regular updates — both through youcaring.com and our social media accounts — so that you can see the real impact you are having on people’s lives by donating to this cause.
It would mean so much to me if you could join us in these efforts.
Please click here to donate what you can.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.