The hurricanes’ effect on St. Joe’s students
Rodrigo Corral ’18, lost contact with his family at 8 a.m. on Sept. 20 when the eye of Hurricane Maria closed in on San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“I lost complete contact for about two or three days,” Corral said. “I still have friends who have no communication with their loved ones.”
Hurricane Irma hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 6, followed by Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm with winds reaching over 100 miles per hour. This left the entire island without electricity, or clean water and with only limited transportation out of the country.
Corral, who was born and raised south of San Juan in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, felt frustration and helplessness while his family was in Puerto Rico experiencing the hurricanes and he was on campus at Saint Joseph’s University. Currently, there are 55 active undergraduate students at St. Joe’s from Puerto Rico.
Corral said that he, along with other Puerto Rican students on campus, felt they were more informed of what was going on in Puerto Rico than those living through it.
“What made it even worse was that my parents, once they lost communication, didn’t know what was going on around them, but we did,” Corral said. “We knew everything that was going on on the island and they didn’t know anything.”
Camila Acosta ’20 shared similar sentiments with Corral, believing that people in the United States were more aware of what was going on in Puerto Rico.
“It was definitely frustrating,” Acosta said. “We just had to wait because we could see pictures on the internet and everything, but we couldn’t talk to our parents to see how they were feeling or what they were going through.”
Cristina Bonnin ’18, was unable to communicate with her family for five days after Hurricane Maria. Her family had to drive over an hour from their home in Ponce, which is on the southern part of the island, to San Juan just to be able to contact her.
“It [was] just hard, not knowing if they were okay or not,” Bonnin said.
Acosta felt that the hurricanes provided her with a newfound appreciation of talking to her parents.
“You don’t even treasure a phone call with your parents until you don’t have it,” Acosta said. “You see all these other people and they just lost everything. And you’re still here, and even though you’re suffering because you feel for your country, you still have all of this and then there’s people who have nothing as of now.”
The First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, created an organization entitled “Unidos por Puerto Rico,” or United for Puerto Rico, to help aid relief in the country.
Students for Puerto Rico, a GoFundMe campaign organized by University of Pennsylvania students, was created for students who are from Puerto Rico, but go to school in the United States. The proceeds will be donated towards the United for Puerto Rico organization. The campaign has recently received a lot of attention after late night host, Jimmy Fallon, donated $20,000 to help the campaign meet its $100,000 goal.
“We have all come together, about 80 universities in this organization,” Acosta said. “We basically canalized all the funding through one organization and that way we don’t have a lot of different GoFundMe’s all over the states.”
As of now, Corral, Acosta and Bonnin are unsure if they will be able to travel back to Puerto Rico for winter break.
“I always go [home] during winter break, but since the airport’s not really working, there’s no electricity on the entire island, I really have no idea when I’m going to be able to fly back,” Bonnin said.
Corral’s parents had the opportunity to get on a flight from Puerto Rico to the United States and are currently in New York.
“I did not know my parents were coming to NYC until they called me from New York,” Corral said. “When my mom got here to New York, that’s when she found out what was going on. It’s a humanitarian crisis right now.”
Acosta said that she would want to go to Puerto Rico to see her family, but she is not prepared to see the current state of the island.
“I don’t think I’m ready to see what there is over there,” Acosta said. “My mom says you can’t even recognize streets. People say it looks like an apocalypse.”