One year later: An SU student reflects on Hurricane Maria

One year later: An SU student reflects on Hurricane Maria

Ricardo Loubriel González remembers the hurricane that left him and his family without food, water or electricity for weeks.
Published: September 21, 2018 | Updated: December 5th, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Everyone has a personal anecdote to tell, personal stories that make you who you are and change you for the rest of your life. I remember it like it was yesterday when my beautiful country of Puerto Rico was preparing for the hit of Hurricane Maria, precisely one year ago.

There were long traffic jams on the highway, lines in every gas station and all of the supermarkets were running out of water, food, batteries, and products that everyone was desperate for.

While my mom was trying to gather supplies, my brother and I were discussing what our living arrangement would be throughout the duration of the storm. We decided that he would stay with our grandparents in their home, and I would help out our parents back home.

I remember convincing myself that everything would be okay–we were prepared, all that was left to decide was what Netflix movie I would watch to kill the time.

I started to watch one of my favorite series called “The Last Kingdom.” After 30 minutes, I began to hear strong gusts of wind and the electricity starting to fail. Minutes later, my whole street was suffering from a power outage.

The storm had not even started.

Hurricane Maria damage in Puerto Rico in September 2018
After Hurricane Maria, many homes in and public establishments in Puerto Rico were destroyed and left in an irreparable state.

In the early morning hours, the hurricane was hitting Puerto Rico at full force. The sound of rough winds woke everyone in my house, and we didn’t have electricity or a cell phone signal to communicate with each other. The storm wasn’t the worst part, though. It was the aftermath. 

After the hit of the hurricane, my backyard was destroyed. Trees were scattered across the yard, our fence was ruined and my father’s favorite palm tree that he planted had been ripped out from the ground.

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A look at Loubriel González's backyard after the hurricane hit.

Without thinking about the consequences of going out after a natural disaster, I made the decision to go check up on my friends because I was worried about them. I hadn’t realized the severity of the damage caused by the storm until I drove through the main streets of my city.

There were torn billboards and whole establishments ripped apart. Broken traffic lights and utility poles lined the streets.  

The island where I was born and raised was completely demolished by a natural disaster and left without power.

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Local fast-food restaurants demolished after Hurricane Maria.

After a week, my family and I ran out of food. When I checked the pantry, there was only a box of lasagna noodles with no sauce or meat, just that box. I was so hungry that I boiled the pasta on our gas stove and ate it plain. At that moment, I realized that I didn’t have luxuries, but I was rich in comparison to people in other nations.

The rest of our supplies began to run out. Our gasoline, food, batteries and even water. The government started to ration water because we didn’t have electricity to pump and deliver it. The lines at the gas stations stretched for miles. My mom woke up around four in the morning and waited six hours to refill her car.

I resorted to my old bicycle as a form of transportation to my grandparents’ and friends’ houses when my car ran out of gasoline. No electricity meant no television, no laundry machines, no cell phone battery, or signal for that matter, and no fridge. We washed our clothes with our hands, dried them with the sun and drank all of our beverages at room temperature.

This was my life for four months.

 

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This was my experience, the experience of someone coming from a middle working-class family. I was lucky compared to those less fortunate. The people who lived in tent houses, the ones who lived near rivers, like my cousin who lost everything when the water nearly reached the top of his roof, were not as lucky. 

Unfortunately, the government of Puerto Rico didn’t take the death toll from this natural disaster seriously, and neither has President Donald Trump. According to media reports, Trump said that the Democratic Party has faked the number of deaths and victims affected by the hurricane to “make him look bad.”

But despite this, the effects of the storm were very real and continue to plague my island and my family.

Shortly after Hurricane Maria, both of my grandparents died, just two months after the hit of the hurricane.

Avatar for Ricardo Loubriel

Art journalism major, focus in travel writing and food writing.