Gladys Colon is a 60 year-old school teacher born and raised in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. She is also my aunt. We’re presenting her un-edited journal entries beginning the morning Hurricane Maria made landfall just south of the Yabucoa Harbor. Aunt Gladys documents her experience through Maria, and her struggle for survival with my uncle. As a proud Puerto Rican, titi Gladys is still refusing to leave her home in Puerto Rico for the comfort of a warm bed, food in the fridge and a nice working shower.
Puerto Rico has become a forgotten battlefield. On November 19th I visited the island where I grew up. Driving through the streets that were once filled with art, the beautiful tall palm trees and the hourly rush traffic of angry Puerto Ricans yelling at each other was all gone. Nothing but a pile of rubble remains. Through the pages of my aunt’s journal, you’ll get a glimpse of the suffering Hurricane Maria has caused.
“Que dolor en el corazón siento,” my aunt says, a pain in her heart, is how she describes finding her sister inside her storm-ravaged home.
September 20, 2017, 6:47 am
The thunder and hard rain resonates through the streets of my poor neighborhood, the heavy rain drops and the crackling sounds of lightning, echoes inside my home. My daughters, I’m very worried about them, I haven’t heard word from my daughters since the power went out all over Puerto Rico 2 hours ago.
My sister, and her husband don’t have a steady home.
Dear god, please keep my family safe, dear god please watch over our island and look over your children, dear god let me family live through a second monstrous hurricane. God, I know this is your doing for us to never forget your throne of life in heaven.
Dear God, my family almost didn’t survive Hugo a category 4/5 my dear god. Watch over us God, for I believe that my family, some, may die in this storm.
September 21, 2017, 11:18 am
Can’t leave my home, the streets are flooded high enough that the water reaches my chin probably and my height is 5’8”. My windows were shattered into pieces, my car is under water, some of the water from outside has gotten inside my home up to my knees.
Still no electricity and we’re unable to get in contact with my family in the island and unable to seek for help. The storm is still going a bit harsh enough to rise the levels of the rivers and bring in some of the water from the ocean.
I’m tired, my husband hasn’t slept all night, we’re hungry and trying to save up the food. My husband has been tried to keep the wooden boards nailed to the windows all night but the wind was too strong that the wooden boards went flying, all I was able to do was try and keep as much water out. My back hurts, my knees are weak.
The rain and thunder continue to echo through my home. I’m afraid to take a nap
I can’t stop crying.
September 30, 2017, 3:15 pm
The food has gone bad, me and my husband haven’t eaten at all for a few days now. We’re starting to feel weak, our home barely survived the hurricane, cracks on the ceiling and walls. Our bedroom and back rooms have completely collapsed.
The flooding isn’t as high anymore. I can see the roof of my car now. It’s really hot today, it’s hard to breath with the intense humidity.
My husband shows no facial expressions, he sits in the corner by the living room looking through our daughters baby albums. And compares them to more of our recent albums with their kids and husbands.
There’s just no way out of my home, a palm tree blocks my front door and the back room that leads outside has collapsed.
We’re hungry, hot, and weak. God please help us.
October 4, 2017, 5:01 am
My husband came back from searching for our family, in hope that they’re all okay, about a few hours ago.
But things went horribly wrong, my grandchild who’s a year old is in intensive care with not much to fight for. My sister’s home has collapsed on her and her husband, their bodies covered in dried blood, bashed in chest and head, our mom has died due to the lack of oxygen in her tank, and a few other relatives have passed away due to the hurricane.
Me and my husband were able to get in contact through some app that can be used as a walkie-talkie.
My niece responds and told her that both her father and cousin are in intensive care and one of her aunts has died.
The rest will have to stay with me.
October 13, 2017, 8:00 pm
Three more bodies have been found, I’m starting to think the worst for my husband, he’s sick and weak. We haven’t eaten in days or had any clean water to drink. My whole body hurts to the point that I cry myself to sleep for the small hours I’m able to close my eyes.
This hurricane took everything, our family, home . . .Puerto Rico. There’s no way of leaving this mountain, the roads are completely gone, and there’s no way down or up.
We’re starving, we need help.
November 17, 2017, 2:47 pm
We finally got some food, enough to help us get through, we still have no power but my husband is now in the hospital. His asthma attack almost took him away from me. I cannot lose another loved one. I’m tired and my body aches in pain and I can’t no longer pull myself up, our home is destroyed still. I did enough cleaning around to at least make it easier to get by, I don’t have the money to build it back up, I don’t have anything . . . except for my husband and family that still breathes. But God is good, my niece and her mother will be coming down to visit and help us back up. I’m grateful for all they have done. As of now, I’ll rest my feet and sleep for a bit.
Very personal and devastating story. Thanks for sharing
Thank you so much, Rocio, for sharing this incredible first-hand account.