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Out of Sight, out of Mind: Hurricane Maria

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

MiAngela Ramos, Contributing Writer

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I woke up in my bedroom to the news playing quietly in the background. My mother left the door cracked open so she could hear if I woke up.  I heard my parents muttering about how horrific an event was. What had happened, I thought. As I got out of bed and lightly creaked the door open, I continued to listen to my parents in the next room.

“Did you call your mother yet?” My mother said.

“No, I wasn’t expecting the damage to be so bad,” said my father.

“Call your brother Joel, call your daughter, make sure they are safe.”

As they continued to speak, she tried to hear what the anchorman was saying on the TV.

“After the massive tornado winds and catastrophic flooding from Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is left in so much destruction and now some people are left without homes. After the main grid was broken, many citizens are questioning when they will have power”.

I think about my family I left in Puerto Rico and if they are okay. I hope that they are okay. They’ve dealt with hurricanes before, how bad could it really be? The news just has nothing else to report on, I determine. I know that my family had prepared for this and that the government will help them. I went back into bed looking up at the ceiling in the darkness wondering what could’ve happened to my grandma, grandpa, uncle, sister, nephew, and cousin.

This story was about me and how I found out about the disastrous hurricane that hit Puerto Rico. My family had been affected after the category five hurricane hit them on September 20th, 2017.  My grandma didn’t have electricity for three months and grandpa didn’t have it for six. My sister and my nephew had to use a generator for their apartment for a short period of time. It was tough for my grandma just to go to the grocery store because so many roads were closed. There was wreckage like fallen palm trees and a pieces of someone’s house sitting in the road that couldn’t be removed.  There was no clean water to drink, a necessity that was difficult to come by when the whole country was devasted by the same problems. It wasn’t one state, it was a whole country that couldn’t receive clean water, electricity, and shelter. My family was considered to be one of the lucky ones because we didn’t lose anyone after Hurricane Maria. Three thousand people had died after the hurricane and the death toll raised well afterward.

You’re probably thinking, why is this an issue now? This is an issue because America has stopped paying attention. Now that American citizens don’t see it on the news every day, they believe the issues have been resolved when in truth they have actually gotten worse. On November 12th, 2018, Trump decided to stop the spending bills that were passed to help with recovery relief for Puerto Rico. He had said “the island was using restructuring and recovery money to pay its debt,” which isn’t true. This idea has created even more depth to the issues already established in Puerto Rico and because of that my family is affected.

Since the Puerto Rican government isn’t allowed to file for bankruptcy due to Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code created by the U.S. government, there is no relief and the economy struggles to get out of the deep hole of debt. This has been an ongoing issue for years but because of hurricane Maria the cutbacks have really affected people. My uncle Joel who has been working for the Puerto Rican government as an accountant in the department (ADSEF) has lost benefits like having a reasonable amount of sick days. Since my uncle works for the Puerto Rican government, they changed how much he would receive when he retires, instead of 75% of his salary he will now only receive 38%. They had also raised the years needed for retirement because of the economy problem. This makes it harder for him to enjoy life and he now has two jobs because if it. He works in the National Guard in order to have something that can’t be cutback due to the fact it’s a federal job tied to the U.S. government. My grandparents could also get their monthly pension drastically reduced in order to help the economy and this will affect where my grandma lives and if she can afford her house in the future. Another issue is that because of the cutback on health insurance my grandma will have to pay more for her medicine while also getting a cutback on her pension. My aunt who works in law enforcement receives less money for more hours because of the economy as well. Every time she works more than eight hours and receives a call for an emergency, it’s supposed to be extra pay but instead the government holds out on the money and she receives it at a much later time. Since many people do not want to work in law enforcement because of the cutbacks and the fact that the government can’t afford to hire new police, the crime rate has gotten higher. My uncle even lost his best friend who was killed because there aren’t enough police to stop the increase in crime. I have a cousin who is in college who can barely afford the tuition now that is has doubled. Additionally my sister wants to move to the U.S. because the education system in Puerto Rico has exceedingly gotten worse. This relates to my sister because she wants my nephew to obtain a good education. As a result of the teachers also getting cutbacks due to the recession, many schools have shut down and the schools that are open do not have well rounded teachers.

The price of food and gas has risen as well which affected my family’s lives on a daily basis. Most members in my family like my grandma, aunt and uncle don’t even receive a regular supply of clean water and electricity still today. The crazier part is one of my aunt’s neighbors still has a blue tarp over their roof as a result of no funding relating back to the spending bill that has been paused.

There are so many issues that have been going on since before Hurricane Maria, but these issues have exacerbated even a year after. So many citizens have left Puerto Rico and the ones who have no choice but to stay are forced to be put but in a dangerous situation where there is little chance of enjoying retirement, living in a safe environment and getting water everyday. If there isn’t pressure put on the U.S. government to push through the money that was promised, my family won’t be able to live, and many families won’t be able to move past Hurricane Maria. Write a note, post something on social media, or vote for politicians who still care about the people in Puerto Rico.

 

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Out of Sight, out of Mind: Hurricane Maria