'I Don't Know If I Can Keep Going': Stories From Maria's Aftermath in Puerto Rico - NBC 6 South Florida
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

'I Don't Know If I Can Keep Going': Stories From Maria's Aftermath in Puerto Rico

Many are wondering how long it will take for life to return to normal in the U.S. territory of 3.4 million

    Winter Olympics PyeongChang 2018 Medal Count
    Country
    Total
    1
    Norway
    13141138
    2
    Canada
    1181029
    3
    Germany
    138728
    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    US Sends Aid, Water to Devastated Puerto Rico Cities

    The U.S. military visited the city of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, as the area is dealing with massive damage to buildings and homes, as well as electrical and water infrastructure, from Hurricane Maria. Other US agencies like the Coast Guard, FEMA, Red Cross, the Puerto Rican Emergency Management Agency and Puerto Rican police are also making their way through Humacao, Puerto Rico, bringing aid, meals and water with them. (Published Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017)

    Last week Puerto Ricans hunkered down as Hurricane Maria raked the length of the island, killing at least 16 people, wrecking the electricity grid and grinding up homes, businesses, roads and farms.

    After the storm passed, islanders set about digging out from the mud and debris slung by worst storm to hit the island in nearly a decade. They went in search of basic necessities: water, food, gas for a generator, a cellphone signal or a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect with relatives.

    All of that remains in very short supply a week later, and now many are wondering how long it will take for life to return to normal in the U.S. territory of 3.4 million.

    Here are the stories of some of those who lived through the storm and are struggling in its aftermath:

    OFFERING WHAT YOU CAN
    Days after the storm hit Sept. 20, Rosa Maria Almonte's cafe in San Juan was still without power and all the other businesses nearby were boarded up. But she still managed to serve up hot meals for people left with little in Maria's wake.

    There was no running water or electricity, but over a gas stove, her daughter cooked up rice, beans and pork chops.

    Almonte has run El Buen Cafe for 21 years and has seen tough times before. But the severity of the damage from Maria, and the prospect of a recovery taking weeks or months, had her wondering whether there is any point in staying.

    "I don't know if I can keep going," the 73-year-old said Friday after mopping up water that seeped into the shop. The awning lay in a heap on the counter.

    "What am I doing here?" she wondered.

    ON THEIR OWN
    In the northern town of Montebello, Maribel Valentin Espino and her husband said they have not seen anyone from the Puerto Rican government, much less the Federal Emergency Management Agency, since the storm tore through.

    President Trump to Visit Puerto Rico

    [NATL] President Trump to Visit Puerto Rico

    President Donald Trump will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday to view the hurricane damage personally. Trump talked about the rescue and recovery efforts, and the challenges presented due to the island's location.

    (Published Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017)

    She, her husband and her teenage son relied on help from relatives to find shelter when the hurricane hit. After it passed, neighbors formed volunteer brigades to cut away fallen trees and clear mountain roads after the storm. Now friends and a local cattle ranch are providing water to help them survive in the tropical heat.

    "People say FEMA is going to help us," Valentin said Tuesday. "We're waiting."

    In Montebello, nestled in what used to be lushly forested mountains near the northern coastal municipality of Manati, Maria stripped the trees bare and scattered them like matchsticks.

    "It seemed like a monster," Valentin recalled.

    The community remains isolated.

    SEARCHING FOR A CONNECTION
    Ricardo Castellanos makes twice-daily visits to two free Wi-Fi hotspots in San Juan — among the rare places these days where Puerto Ricans can still get online and in touch with relatives across the island and overseas.

    Pigeon Beauty Contest Held in Iraq

    [NATL] Pigeon Beauty Contest Held in Iraq

    More than 300 trumpeter pigeons competed in an Iraqi beauty contest. It’s the first of its kind in the country, according to pageant organizers.

    (Published Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018)

    On Monday, Castellanos was trying to reach his two daughters in the central town of Gurabo — whom he hadn't heard from since the storm. He has also been using the hotspots to send his own news to a few friends, passing on photos of Maria's devastation.

    Communication has become a resource nearly as precious as power and water. Some Puerto Ricans are pulling over on the side of highways in search of a stronger cell signal. Others — both on the island and elsewhere — have called a local radio station to provide names, numbers and addresses of loved ones they have yet to hear from.

    There is also some anger over what some say has been a lack of communication from cellphone providers about which towers are working.

    "They're not giving us any information," said Castellanos, a business consultant. "We're in a state of emergency."

    MAKING THE MOST OF A BAD SITUATION
    Puerto Rico's economy has ground nearly to a complete halt. There are long lines at the handful of banks that have opened and limited number of ATMs that have cash. Many people are unable to work or run businesses because there's no electricity, or diesel to fuel generators. Stores are almost always unable to process credit or bank cards and accept only cash.

    But as with any crisis, there are some who weather it better than others.

    NRA Chief: It's Time 'to Harden Our Schools'

    [NATL] NRA Chief: It's Time 'to Harden Our Schools'

    NRA Chief Wayne LaPierre gave a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference a week after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, arguing it is time “to harden our schools.”

    (Published Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018)

    Elpidio Fernandez, who sells coconut and passion fruit ice cream from a pushcart in San Juan, has a supplier with a generator and says business is booming. He has made up to $500 on some days since the storm.

    "Business has multiplied by a thousand," said Fernandez, 78, quickly adding: "Even though I'm doing well, I don't feel good because I know other people are suffering."

    Christian Mendoza said the car wash where he works is closed so he has been selling bottled water — even though it's not refrigerated.

    "The water (was) hot, and it still went like you wouldn't believe," he said.

    STAY, OR GO?
    With the economy in ruins, homes in tatters and food, water and other basics in short supply, many Puerto Ricans are thinking of leaving. But others can't imagine life elsewhere.

    Israel Molina, the 68-year-old owner of Israel Mini Market in San Juan, said he has had the shop for 26 years. He bought it and rebuilt it after Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.

    Students Walk Out of Class to Protest Gun Laws

    [NATL-MI] Students Walk Out of Class to Protest Gun Laws

    NBC 6's Darryl Forges is at one of several locations where students left class for a period of time Wednesday, one week after the Parkland school tragedy.

    (Published Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018)

    Parts of the roof have been ripped away, but Molina wants to stay.

    "I'm from here. I believe we have to step up to the task. If everyone leaves, what are we going to do? With all the pros and the cons, I will stay here," he said Friday.

    After a pause, he added: "I might have a different response tomorrow."

    Nearby, hair salon co-owner Diana Jaquez assessed the damage with help from her husband as their children played.

    "I haven't decided yet," she said when asked whether she would remain.

    Associated Press writers Danica Coto in San Juan and Ben Fox in Montebello contributed to this report.

    Parkland Shooting Survivor Calls 'BS' on Politicians' Gun Stance

    [NATL] Parkland Shooting Survivor Calls 'BS' on Politicians' Gun Stance

    Marjory Stoneman Douglas High senior Emma Gonzalez had a message for president Donald Trump and for other politicians on their failure to enact sensible gun laws: "BS." Gonzalez was one of several survivors to speak at a rally held outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to speak out against the gun lobby.

    (Published Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018)