Time Is Running Out for Puerto Ricans Sheltering in Hotels

Time Is Running Out for Puerto Ricans Sheltering in Hotels
Phil Murphy just did this to help Puerto Ricans displaced in NJ by hurricane
nHARTFORD — The fourth floor of the Red Roof Inn felt like a city block on a recent Friday night, as families spilled from their rooms into the hallway. Doors were propped open. Chihuahuas skittered around on the carpet, and a cluster of teenage boys had claimed a spot by the elevators, a speaker thumping with hip-hop.

At the end of the hall, in a room where a window framed the dome of the State Capitol like a postcard, Janette Febres’s husband and 12-year-old son watched television on the bed the three of them have been sharing for nearly three months, reaching the end of a day as empty and restless as many of the ones before it.

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Phil Murphy just did this to help Puerto Ricans displaced in NJ by hurricane
Phil Murphy just did this to help Puerto Ricans displaced in NJ by hurricane

Phil Murphy just did this to help Puerto Ricans displaced in NJ by hurricane

The living conditions were cramped, and the room did not have a microwave or a refrigerator. Ms. Febres has asked housekeeping to stop cleaning the room just so she could have something to occupy her time. Even so, she was grateful. Her room, like those many other families were staying in, was paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Amid the turmoil that has unraveled much of her family’s life since fleeing Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, the room was one of the few things that seemed stable.

The desperation that followed Maria’s devastation and the stumbling response has given way to uncertainty for many Puerto Ricans throughout the country. Some who left for the mainland United States have returned home, while others have laid roots in new places, finding jobs and securing permanent housing.

Even the governor’s proposed raise for teachers doesn’t match what many teachers expect at this point. Toledo said teachers deserve pay increases so that their salaries rise to $3,000 a month on average. By contrast, Rosselló’s proposal would increase the average teacher salary to $2,325 monthly, or a $125 monthly increase from current pay levels. And that’s not the only material shortfall she said needs to be addressed.

Yet thousands of other families remain in limbo and have been relying on hotel rooms provided by FEMA as they decide whether to go back or forge ahead elsewhere. Many people staying in the hotels have described confusion over where their cases stand and anxiety about whether they will be able to stay as deadlines rapidly approach — for some, as soon as this week.

“I’m fully aware that there may be points in the journey that the adults are not happy with the decisions that I make,” said Keleher, who has been secretary for a little more than a year after previously working in Puerto Rico for the U.S. Department of Education. “I can’t have a situation where a student doesn’t have access to a teacher and there’s an excess of teachers in [another] location.”

“It has me on pins and needles,” said Wanda Arroyo, 56, who has been living in a hotel in Queens. “It has gotten to the point that I don’t even pick up the letters slipped under my door because of the expectation that one will say I’m being kicked out.”

Puerto Rico’s 2007 Teacher of the Year still teaches marketing and business administration at Dr. Maria Cadilla High School in Arecibo, about an hour west of San Juan, but she is in the middle of her own transition out of the classroom to oversee other educators. In early October, just a few weeks after the hurricane, she expressed hope that the island’s teachers would remain and help the schools recover.

Nearly 4,000 families spread across 40 states and Puerto Rico remain in hotels under FEMA’s transitional sheltering assistance program, federal officials said. Most families — more than 1,500 — were in Florida, while hundreds of others were in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. More than 800 were in hotels in Puerto Rico.

And a separate plan from Rosselló released late last month, with the backing of Secretary of Education Julia Keleher, would close more than 300 public schools, out of about 1,100, as part of an effort by Puerto Rico’s government to get a handle on its troubled finances. (That and other proposals must first be approved by other governing bodies on the island, including the Legislative Assembly.)

Most of the stays have been extended until March 20, but about 200 households have been alerted that FEMA would stop paying for their rooms as of Wednesday. The agency had already cut off assistance last month for some households after federal officials determined that their homes in Puerto Rico were habitable and had functioning utilities.

In her view, people who grew up in Puerto Rico and are now in their 50s got a good public education, but those who are now in the system deserve a better education, especially but not exclusively because of Hurricane Maria’s damage. And she has little patience for skeptics who she says lack their own data-driven alternatives to her ideas, including those who have protested school closures.

FEMA said that the agency was hearing appeals from some who had been denied further assistance and added that it was possible for the program to continue after March if Puerto Rican officials found that it was still needed. But agency officials stressed that the program — which was also used to support families displaced by hurricanes in Texas and Florida — was supposed to be short-term.

“This is a bridge to other longer-term solutions,” William Booher, a FEMA spokesman, said, adding that “survivors are responsible for their own recovery and to actively look for permanent housing solutions.”

Such proposals to close current schools and open new, nontraditional ones are anathema to others in the education community, including the island’s teachers’ union, the Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico. Both the charter school and school-closure plans followed an extended tug of war over the speed at which schools were reopened in the wake of the hurricane.
Tensions Rise Over Path Forward for Puerto Rico Schools
Tensions Rise Over Path Forward for Puerto Rico Schools

Some who were told that their homes were fit to live in disagreed, like Ms. Febres, who argued that her house needed significant repairs. Others said they had difficulty getting clear answers from the agency about where their case stood.

Schools have so far received only temporary structural repairs, Keleher noted. And schools that need permanent fixes won’t get them this school year. She laments that she doesn’t have generators and solar panels to offer to all schools. As of late last month, about a third of the island’s schools were without power, and some only had it intermittently.

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In some cases, local officials and charities have stepped in. In Connecticut, officials intervened on behalf of about three dozen families who were told that they had become ineligible for help. After FEMA declined to extend assistance, the state agreed to cover the hotel expenses of 17 families until Wednesday. State officials said that additional money had been set aside to help families in Connecticut who were losing their aid this week.

But there are big and potentially irreconcilable disagreements between those leaders about the best way to provide those opportunities. Some involve education policy arguments familiar to schools on the U.S. mainland. Other potentially difficult debates, however, deal with issues like the basic, day-to-day learning environment of Puerto Rico’s schools.

“The families are in a constant state of unrest,” said Wildaliz Bermudez, a Hartford councilwoman who visited families staying at the Red Roof Inn downtown. “They were displaced in Puerto Rico and now they’re being displaced here.”

Some educators are worried about whether they will have their jobs in a few months. The number of proposed school closures has caught them off guard. They worry that the close-and-revamp approach to many schools will lead to a downward spiral in which more teachers move to the U.S. mainland, leaving their former students and parents in the lurch.

The situation has been a reminder of how the storm’s devastation continues to ripple five months after Maria raked over the island. The families in the hotels have been part of an exodus as Puerto Rico has struggled to recover. Researchers have projected that by next year, nearly a half-million will have left Puerto Rico for the mainland United States after the hurricane.

Where the families in the hotels will ultimately end up remains to be seen.

In lobby of the Hartford hotel, one woman said that her daughter had gotten a nursing job and that her family was looking for an apartment. Among others, there was an air of weariness, as they anguished over what might come next. Job interviews had been unsuccessful or language barriers made it difficult to find work. Some were simply aimless as weeks went by with little to do. When Ms. Febres needed to go to the store, her family made the three-mile walk to a Walmart just because they wanted to burn energy.

Murphy, who led a day trip last December to the storm-damaged island, said New Jersey has a “direct imperative” to aid Puerto Rico. More than half a million New Jersey residents are of Puerto Rican descent and 30,000 natives of the island moved to New Jersey after the storm, Murphy said. 

Many were still reeling from the trauma that has festered since the storm.

Ms. Arroyo was flown to New York City on Nov. 15 and spent two weeks with an aunt before checking into a hotel in Corona, Queens. She suffers from a litany of medical conditions, including diabetes and depression. She needs a wheelchair and is blind in her left eye, which is covered by a patch of white gauze taped to her reading glasses.

FEMA to stop paying for hotels for Puerto Rican evacuees in CT

After the storm and before her evacuation to New York, she was largely confined to her bed in her home in Ponce, cared for by her father’s widow. Stuck in sweltering heat, she worried that wounds on her body would become infected. She was so fearful she even wrote a will and instructions to cremate her remains on the back of a photograph of her father and mother, which she clutched in her hands as she slept.

Yanitza Cruz, who is nearly eight months pregnant, was told when she checked into the hotel in Queens in December that she could stay until Feb. 14. She has become increasingly worried as the deadline approaches; her calls to FEMA yielded few answers. When she tried to check the status of her case online, the website said it had been “withdrawn.”

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She traveled to Queens with her husband, Joel García, and 5-year-old daughter, Janesty, from the mountain town of Orocovis, southwest of San Juan. They had been drawn by the promise that New York appeared to offer, fueling hopes of getting an apartment and, for Mr. García, becoming a licensed barber in the city he saw as a “barbershop mecca.” It seemed different from home, where they struggled even before the hurricane.

Bergen County Executive, Jim Tedesco announced Monday that he will run for re-election. Elected officials, including, Gov. Murphy, as well as senators, Menendez and Booker were there along with Congressman Pascrell to back Tedesco. (2/5/18)
Murphy creates commission to aid Puerto Rico
Murphy creates commission to aid Puerto Rico

“We didn’t even have a car in Puerto Rico,” Mr. García said. “We would walk with our bags under the sun. Now we’re in a place where for $2.75 I can travel to Brooklyn. I see this as an opportunity. But the thing is, we haven’t found stability yet. I’m just looking for stability.”

It is difficult to tell when that stability might ever come, but last week they did receive a measure of relief. FEMA called to let them know they could stay in the hotel another month.

“The federal response, I think, measured in every dimension has been wanting: Bodies, timing, money, vision, sensitivity, the implication that these folks are not American,” Murphy said. 

Rick Rojas reported from Hartford, and Luis Ferré-Sadurní from New York.

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Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday creating a temporary commission charged with helping Puerto Rico and its citizens following Hurricane Maria last year. 

Alba Colon, center, welcomed her mother, Alba Rodriguez, left, and niece, Vanessa Manzano, to her Michigan home after Hurricane Maria.

It took Alba Colon, then Chevrolet’s program manager for the NASCAR Cup Series, a week to learn her family was safe after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in mid-September. But her desperation and worry didn’t end even after she learned her mother, sibling, in-laws, aunts and uncles had survived the devastating hurricane. The Spain native who grew up in Puerto Rico still worried about getting her family to the United States. Now, as she prepares for her first Daytona 500 with Hendrick Motorsports, Colon shares her ordeal.

When Hurricane Maria cut a path of destruction across Puerto Rico, I was Chevrolet’s program manager for the NASCAR Cup effort and we were at the beginning of our playoffs. For a week, I got very little sleep as I tried desperately to find my family while not missing a beat with my racing duties.

With the beginning of the 2018 NASCAR season, I know my family is safe. I am starting a new job — director of competition systems for Hendrick Motorsports — but the emotions of last September’s ordeal are still very vivid to me as Puerto Rico continues to recover from that horrible storm.

Over the years, I had thought often of going back to visit old haunts, but never did. I knew that decades of booming tourism had spawned rampant development along miles of unspoiled Atlantic Beach coastline, forever changing Puerto Rico’s landscape. From Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again:” “Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same.” But things only remain the same in a person’s mind if he never goes back.

Today, my family has electricity and water, but it took several months for them to get both. It was on and off for a while, and their water service returned long before their electricity was restored. The prices on many things have increased, but thankfully, everyone in my family is doing well.

Then, a scam of unprecedented magnitude victimized Puerto Ricans. FEMA awarded a $156 billion contract to the one-person Tribute Contracting LLC to provide 30 million meals to hungry Puerto Ricans. Only 50,000 were delivered. Because of previous questionable dealings, the federal government had barred Tribute from government work until 2019. An investigation is underway, too little, too late.

The storm cut the island in half. My 76-year-old mother, my sister and her family live in Sabana Grande, which is on the island’s west coast. My brother and his family live in a town south of them. They suffered water damage to their homes, so a couple of things were lost, but nothing major. The houses are built of blocks and cement to withstand storms and hurricanes because you always have them. It’s the normal thing.

After an absence of more than 50 years, I returned to Puerto Rico this month to view firsthand Hurricane Maria’s devastation. I spent most of my formative years growing up in Puerto Rico, attended a local high school, and took my first post-college job on the island. My emotional ties to Puerto Rico are strong; my son, a true borinqueno, and one of my sisters were born in San Juan.

Murphy signs executive order creating commission on Puerto Rico relief

That’s why I don’t think anybody expected Maria to be so bad. Hurricane Irma had hit two weeks earlier and my mother lost electricity for a few days, but it didn’t do too much damage. Normally, the storms come north and they go south. No one expected one to come through the middle of the island.

Some sections of Puerto Rico are slowly returning to normal. Tourism is slow, but the hotels and restaurants that serve visitors are up and running. Most advertise: “We have electricity,” a reminder that even in Puerto Rico’s biggest cities, residents were without power for weeks.

Carving pumpkins was a first for Vanessa Manzano, left, and Alba Rodriguez when they came to Michigan from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.

That was one of the things that really scared me about my mom, because she didn’t take this hurricane seriously. I had talked with my mother on the Tuesday night before the storm hit on Wednesday and she had told me she was going to ride it out by herself, even though my sister lived just two streets away. She told me not to worry — nothing was going to happen. She ended up staying with my sister-in-law because my brother was in Washington D.C., for a corporate meeting.

I woke up at 4 a.m. that Wednesday [Sept. 20] and wanted to call her, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to wake her. I talked with a friend in San Juan at 5 a.m. and he told me he had started to feel the winds. That was when our conversation got cut off. I waited until 8 a.m. to call my mother, but, of course, by then there was no communication.

For anguished Puerto Ricans, being shunted aside while Congress debates illegal immigrants’ futures is another bitter pill for them to swallow.

Once the storm passed and the news reports started, my desperation set in. I couldn’t find them and I didn’t hear anything from them. I started calling people and I could not reach anybody.

Murphy’s mandate will task the commission with examining New Jersey-based resources available to students and professors who evacuated the island or remain unable to complete their coursework in Puerto Rico. The group will also review the moratorium on mortgage and reverse mortgage foreclosures in Puerto Rico that is set to expire on March 19.

We were told that if you were looking for someone, call this special 1-800 number. I kept calling it and nothing happened. Many of the people I went to high school with are in the United States and they put a group together on WhatsApp [a freeware and cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP service]. That is how I started communicating, just trying to learn what was occurring on that side of the island.

That group from high school was amazing. We were all in the same boat, because we were all looking for our parents, our families. Claro is a phone service provider in Puerto Rico, like Verizon here, and it was working in certain spots. Some people started trying to find their relatives that way.

I kept working [at my job] through all of this, but I was desperate to find them. Social media helped everybody. I used Twitter and Facebook. I knew no one died in the town where my family lived, but where were they? I started sending texts to my mother every night, telling her we were looking for her and not to worry. It was like [writing] a diary to her, but she never saw them until she made it to the United States. One hundred and seventy people from Puerto Rico work at General Motors, and we were all sending messages to one another, telling what relative had been found.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order Monday creating a commission that will collaborate with state and federal agencies to speed up the relief efforts for displaced Puerto Ricans who relocated to the state following Hurricane Maria.

I started feeling guilty when I would eat a hot meal because I wondered if people back home had one. When I would take a warm shower, I knew they didn’t have one. I was sleeping in air conditioning and I knew they were sweating. I started feeling guilty because I had the basics of life and they didn’t. When I wasn’t working, my mind was always on them.

When my brother left for Washington, the storm wasn’t supposed to hit the island. By the time he realized the seriousness of the hurricane, he couldn’t return because all of the flights had been canceled. It was slightly more than two weeks before he could get home.

During this time, I learned to have a lot of patience and to rely on others. One thing that really helped me was the moral support from so many people. The NASCAR community was amazing. Everyone asked what they could do to help.

Murphy is also ordering the commission to identify opportunities for New Jerseyans to visit Puerto Rico in an effort to increase tourism to the island.

While trying to get my brother back to Puerto Rico, we learned about satellite phones. I asked him to take one with him. One day I received a telephone call from a number I didn’t know and I was asked my identity. Then the call was lost. I kept trying to call back the number, but without any luck.

The newly-formed commission will also look into how New Jersey can help Puerto Rico recover from the estimated $100 billion in damage it sustained.

The next day, exactly a week after I last talked with my mother, I received a call from that same number. It was my mom’s voice and she started crying. She kept saying, \”Are you coming here? You’re coming here.” I told her I couldn’t get there. It was just a few seconds and then the call ended. I later learned it was my mom’s neighbor and she had to go to a specific place to get a signal. People weren’t leaving their phones on very long because they had no way to charge them.

New Jersey is home to about 600,000 Puerto Ricans — the third largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the United States.

During all of this, we were also desperately trying to figure a way to get them out of Puerto Rico or how to get to them. The humanity shown during this time was amazing. Somebody saw something I posted on Facebook and went to my mother’s house, but by then she was already with my sister.

The kids later told me it was getting unbearable to sleep because it was so hot. My niece and nephew told me they slept on the floor in the garage because it was cool. My family told me they would wake up at 1 a.m. to get in line at the gas station, which opened at 6 a.m., just to get $20 worth of gas. My sister said she spent her whole day between the gas station and a restaurant that opened. She said it was the new normal. You get used to it and you adapt. The good thing was, people learned to communicate with one another again because they had no choice.

Two-and-a-half weeks after the storm, I finally saw my mother. She and my 17-year-old niece, Vanessa Manzano, finally got a flight out of Puerto Rico. The day I got Mom was the same day my brother was able to get back to the island. The first meal my niece had, she ate a lot of food. We went to a barbecue place in Michigan because she wanted ribs. That’s when I learned they had good food for three or four days after the storm hit because Mom had a gas stove and everybody started cooking the food they had before it was ruined. Everyone was sharing food.

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The first thing my mother wanted to do when she got to Michigan was sleep. They also wanted to get their hair done — the little pleasures of life. The big deal for me was to hug my mother and my niece when they arrived. There are stories that I don’t even know yet, because when they got here I just wanted to spend time with them. My sister told me that one day we would sit and talk and she would tell me everything that happened. I didn’t want to waste any time on that when they were here. I just wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. My niece stayed a month before she returned for school. My mother stayed three months between Michigan and Florida before returning to Puerto Rico. We are now talking about bringing her back.

I was scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico the weekend after the storm on a recruiting trip for General Motors. We were to bring 14 students from the University of Puerto Rico to GM for job interviews. We started contacting them via social media to let them know they still had their interviews when they could get there. It took us until November to be able to get the students to GM for their interviews. When I went to Puerto Rico with four other people in November, it was heartbreaking. When we flew into San Juan, we saw a lot of houses with blue tarps on the damaged roofs. Everyone there now talks about things in the vernacular of “before Maria” and “after Maria.”

One thing I learned during all of this was that I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed to let other people help me. I learned about humanity. It reshuffled my priorities in life, taught me that family is No. 1 and you need to do the things that make you happy. Sometimes you forget that family is No. 1 because of the jobs we have. It scared me to think I might not have my family.

We also learned that when there’s a storm, you had better be ready. But at the end of the day, it was about amazing humanity, and we need to continue that.

It took Alba Colon, then Chevrolet’s program manager for the NASCAR Cup Series, a week to learn her family was safe after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in mid-September. But her desperation and worry didn’t end even after she learned her mother, sibling, in-laws, aunts and uncles had survived the devastating hurricane. The Spain native who grew up in Puerto Rico still worried about getting her family to the United States. Now, as she prepares for her first Daytona 500 with Hendrick Motorsports, Colon shares her ordeal.

When Hurricane Maria cut a path of destruction across Puerto Rico, I was Chevrolet’s program manager for the NASCAR Cup effort and we were at the beginning of our playoffs. For a week, I got very little sleep as I tried desperately to find my family while not missing a beat with my racing duties.

With the beginning of the 2018 NASCAR season, I know my family is safe. I am starting a new job — director of competition systems for Hendrick Motorsports — but the emotions of last September’s ordeal are still very vivid to me as Puerto Rico continues to recover from that horrible storm.

Today, my family has electricity and water, but it took several months for them to get both. It was on and off for a while, and their water service returned long before their electricity was restored. The prices on many things have increased, but thankfully, everyone in my family is doing well.

The storm cut the island in half. My 76-year-old mother, my sister and her family live in Sabana Grande, which is on the island’s west coast. My brother and his family live in a town south of them. They suffered water damage to their homes, so a couple of things were lost, but nothing major. The houses are built of blocks and cement to withstand storms and hurricanes because you always have them. It’s the normal thing.

That’s why I don’t think anybody expected Maria to be so bad. Hurricane Irma had hit two weeks earlier and my mother lost electricity for a few days, but it didn’t do too much damage. Normally, the storms come north and they go south. No one expected one to come through the middle of the island.

That was one of the things that really scared me about my mom, because she didn’t take this hurricane seriously. I had talked with my mother on the Tuesday night before the storm hit on Wednesday and she had told me she was going to ride it out by herself, even though my sister lived just two streets away. She told me not to worry — nothing was going to happen. She ended up staying with my sister-in-law because my brother was in Washington D.C., for a corporate meeting.

I woke up at 4 a.m. that Wednesday [Sept. 20] and wanted to call her, but I didn’t because I didn’t want to wake her. I talked with a friend in San Juan at 5 a.m. and he told me he had started to feel the winds. That was when our conversation got cut off. I waited until 8 a.m. to call my mother, but, of course, by then there was no communication.

Once the storm passed and the news reports started, my desperation set in. I couldn’t find them and I didn’t hear anything from them. I started calling people and I could not reach anybody.

We were told that if you were looking for someone, call this special 1-800 number. I kept calling it and nothing happened. Many of the people I went to high school with are in the United States and they put a group together on WhatsApp [a freeware and cross-platform instant messaging and voice over IP service]. That is how I started communicating, just trying to learn what was occurring on that side of the island.

That group from high school was amazing. We were all in the same boat, because we were all looking for our parents, our families. Claro is a phone service provider in Puerto Rico, like Verizon here, and it was working in certain spots. Some people started trying to find their relatives that way.

I kept working [at my job] through all of this, but I was desperate to find them. Social media helped everybody. I used Twitter and Facebook. I knew no one died in the town where my family lived, but where were they? I started sending texts to my mother every night, telling her we were looking for her and not to worry. It was like [writing] a diary to her, but she never saw them until she made it to the United States. One hundred and seventy people from Puerto Rico work at General Motors, and we were all sending messages to one another, telling what relative had been found.

I started feeling guilty when I would eat a hot meal because I wondered if people back home had one. When I would take a warm shower, I knew they didn’t have one. I was sleeping in air conditioning and I knew they were sweating. I started feeling guilty because I had the basics of life and they didn’t. When I wasn’t working, my mind was always on them.

When my brother left for Washington, the storm wasn’t supposed to hit the island. By the time he realized the seriousness of the hurricane, he couldn’t return because all of the flights had been canceled. It was slightly more than two weeks before he could get home.

During this time, I learned to have a lot of patience and to rely on others. One thing that really helped me was the moral support from so many people. The NASCAR community was amazing. Everyone asked what they could do to help.

While trying to get my brother back to Puerto Rico, we learned about satellite phones. I asked him to take one with him. One day I received a telephone call from a number I didn’t know and I was asked my identity. Then the call was lost. I kept trying to call back the number, but without any luck.

The next day, exactly a week after I last talked with my mother, I received a call from that same number. It was my mom’s voice and she started crying. She kept saying, \”Are you coming here? You’re coming here.\” I told her I couldn’t get there. It was just a few seconds and then the call ended. I later learned it was my mom’s neighbor and she had to go to a specific place to get a signal. People weren’t leaving their phones on very long because they had no way to charge them.

During all of this, we were also desperately trying to figure a way to get them out of Puerto Rico or how to get to them. The humanity shown during this time was amazing. Somebody saw something I posted on Facebook and went to my mother’s house, but by then she was already with my sister.

The kids later told me it was getting unbearable to sleep because it was so hot. My niece and nephew told me they slept on the floor in the garage because it was cool. My family told me they would wake up at 1 a.m. to get in line at the gas station, which opened at 6 a.m., just to get $20 worth of gas. My sister said she spent her whole day between the gas station and a restaurant that opened. She said it was the new normal. You get used to it and you adapt. The good thing was, people learned to communicate with one another again because they had no choice.

Two-and-a-half weeks after the storm, I finally saw my mother. She and my 17-year-old niece, Vanessa Manzano, finally got a flight out of Puerto Rico. The day I got Mom was the same day my brother was able to get back to the island. The first meal my niece had, she ate a lot of food. We went to a barbecue place in Michigan because she wanted ribs. That’s when I learned they had good food for three or four days after the storm hit because Mom had a gas stove and everybody started cooking the food they had before it was ruined. Everyone was sharing food.

The first thing my mother wanted to do when she got to Michigan was sleep. They also wanted to get their hair done — the little pleasures of life. The big deal for me was to hug my mother and my niece when they arrived. There are stories that I don’t even know yet, because when they got here I just wanted to spend time with them. My sister told me that one day we would sit and talk and she would tell me everything that happened. I didn’t want to waste any time on that when they were here. I just wanted to make sure they had everything they needed. My niece stayed a month before she returned for school. My mother stayed three months between Michigan and Florida before returning to Puerto Rico. We are now talking about bringing her back.

I was scheduled to travel to Puerto Rico the weekend after the storm on a recruiting trip for General Motors. We were to bring 14 students from the University of Puerto Rico to GM for job interviews. We started contacting them via social media to let them know they still had their interviews when they could get there. It took us until November to be able to get the students to GM for their interviews. When I went to Puerto Rico with four other people in November, it was heartbreaking. When we flew into San Juan, we saw a lot of houses with blue tarps on the damaged roofs. Everyone there now talks about things in the vernacular of \”before Maria\” and \”after Maria.\”

One thing I learned during all of this was that I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed to let other people help me. I learned about humanity. It reshuffled my priorities in life, taught me that family is No. 1 and you need to do the things that make you happy. Sometimes you forget that family is No. 1 because of the jobs we have. It scared me to think I might not have my family.

We also learned that when there’s a storm, you had better be ready. But at the end of the day, it was about amazing humanity, and we need to continue that.



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Kevin Bradley @kevinbrad75

RT @Joan_Kappes: #SharingPlanetBeauty RT @UKWingman Brunch this morning at the Porthmeor Cafe in St Ive's Cornwall for those overseas it's… |

Dean T.Carson II CPA @DCarsonCPA

DCarsonCPA #HRTaskForce Lines #USDOL #NYSDOL #SHRM https://t.co/pmCQaOlGG8 #Linkedin 1Q18 jobs reports https://t.co/sktht3kgDu | lnkd.in/e6YuXGr

Elisa Ramírez @elanueva

RT @ActualidadRT: The New York Times: "La CIA interfirió más de 80 veces en elecciones en otros países" https://t.co/TUbcfF0AOc https://t.c… | es.rt.com/5n7x

My Country @take_backUSA

Can Liberal Zionists Count On Hillary Clinton? - The New York Times https://t.co/JStMu9aqZl | ref.gl/rQiVreJn

Community Scene @community_scene

Prohibition Pub Crawl - Feb 19 Half price! #newyorktickets https://t.co/q1hG6esDhH | communityscene.com/new-york/prohi…

総理大臣@あんぽんたん @p_man_74

RT @pitchfork: How New York's most defiantly minimalist trio morphed into an art rock behemoth https://t.co/9qtkJHMLQp | p4k.in/IDjQibV

Gigi Hadid Daily @gigihadidaily

RT @VogueRunway: Gigi Hadid took her bold Anna Sui beauty look out onto the street post-show. https://t.co/vO9WLp3SRT https://t.co/cU0t0snO… | vogue.cm/k3dEJZ9

frankie cocktail @frankiecocktail

Just posted a photo @ Manhattan, New York https://t.co/951MqpRHbr | instagram.com/p/BfWn6PyBMGY/

Mary F. Mueller @MaryFMueller

RT @IDC4NY: Sen. @DavidCarlucci & AM @TomAbinanti introduced legislation that will reform New York's cashless tolling system that has hit d… |

Jeff Schwarz @jeffaschwarz

RT @SethAbramson: I struggle to gauge John Schindler's reliability, but I feel I should note that the New York Observer today published a p… |

Ian Thompson @IanThomp

RT @mrjohnofarrell: Saw this store in New York. We should all go in, pick out some books, then explain that we’re going to order those titl… |

Karen @Amerwilbgrtagai

@FoxNews Mr. President against your own fathers better judgement he took a chance on you he gave you the money to c… https://t.co/oMXz3KK1Sz | twitter.com/i/web/status/9…