Flying in from Fort Lauderdale, I did not know what to expect when I finally landed in Puerto Rico. CNN had just announced that the new death toll from the devastating 2017 hurricane Maria had risen to 2,975.
I had spent 6 years writing a book about Puerto Rico, a book loosely based on my family history. I had lived and breathed Puerto Rico and I had to come back in order to see what had happened to the island of my parents and my ancestors. I came with a heavy heart.
However, what I saw and what I heard blew me away--stories of courage, hope, and optimism. I did not hear one victim or one poor me story. Yes, there was disappointment and sadness, but not one complaint on how the U.S. government had abandoned them.
The feeling in the air was that of the aftermath of a major trauma. Yet, the people were laughing, joking, and back to business as usual. As our shuttle driver said, "We must look forward." I was proud of these humble people. They were MY people and I felt great admiration and a sense of pride knowing that I come from a people who continue to live life to the fullest.
We sat and listened to salsa music. We saw dancing and a joy of life. We heard about how our hotel opened its doors one day after the storm and provided food, shelter, and showers everyday for their employees. I heard about a National Guard officer who helped many people and also about the internal political strife that got in the way of providing food for the people. "Politics got in the way," our shuttle driver said.
Still, as we drove around, we found people who were starting to rebuild their lives. In the words of one of the hotel employees, "...some people lost their lives and some have been reborn..."
I saw this quote that said, "I don't live in Puerto Rico, but Puerto Rico lives in me. I hope the humble, optimistic people of Puerto Rico can live in all of us.
As I fly home, I know without a shadow of a doubt, that Puerto Rico will rise again!