I’m sure everyone has heard this by now, but I am still shell-shocked to see the damage that is ongoing in Puerto Rico. I’ve been to the island many times – I was fortunate enough to go every year for a good stretch of time – and often considered making a second home there, or retiring in that region.
As of now, those plans are on indefinite hold. I have no idea if Puerto Rico, and the towns of Isabella and Playa Jobos where I spent most of my time there, will ever be the places I knew again. Right now all I can see and hear are the terrible stories of suffering and uncertainty from good people who shared their island home with me.
Is the Los Morillos Lighthouse still there? Are the Rangers who maintained the surrounding park safe? Did the nameless family that helped me when I got lost down a dead-end street in Isabella lose their home? Is Junior’s Pizza, always our first stop in Playa Jobos, even standing? People are telling stories of the long, winding route down 66, which used to wend through a dense tunnel of jungle foliage, now looking like a moonscape, with all the vegetation stripped away. Of El Yunque, the only rainforest that is part of the United States, scrubbed to bare rock.
I know everyone has compassion fatigue. There are so many horrible things right now. Houston. Miami. The Island of Barbuda completely uninhabitable. Earthquakes in Mexico. Volcanos in Indonesia. It feels like the earth is trying to shake humanity off, like a dog with a bad case of fleas. You feel – I feel – utterly helpless.
But please. If you have any ability, consider donating to one of these organizations to help the people of Puerto Rico, who so desperately need it.
OneAmericaAppeal.org – led by five former presidents of the US
Unidos – run by the Hispanic Federation
GoFundMe – crowdsourced donations from individual groups. There is no good way to say this – the US government has fumbled this situation terribly and is causing active delays in aid. Small groups of concerned citizens – many with personal links on the island – are stepping into that space to try to make up for it.
All Hands Volunteers and PRVOAD are actively looking for volunteers to help. (The PRVOAD site is in Spanish, but can be translated through GoogleTranslate.)
I’ve written before about the sickening feeling of watching a loved place descend into chaos, the gut wrenching knowledge that things will never be the same again. I also wrote about my immense relief when it turned out that I was wrong, and that people and places are more resilient than I had ever dared hope. I want so badly to be proven wrong again.
Be safe, and hold on to what you can.