After Hurricane Maria destroyed their town of Manati, Puerto Rico, senior Caleb Rodriguez and junior Jeriel Rodriguez moved in with their relatives in Northern Virginia and became a part of the Marshall community.
Although the two brothers are adjusting to their new life, they say that they are still concerned about what the future holds for their hometown.
“What made me leave my island was [this] terrible event,” Caleb said. “I came here to continue my studies because with the terrible event of Hurricane Maria, it is not known when classes would start in Puerto Rico.”
The two recognize the unprecedented severity of this natural disaster, and how its impact has forced them to pursue an entirely new life elsewhere.
“What’s most important for people here to understand about [Puerto Rico’s] situation is that one of the United States’ own territories has been devastated by a category 5 hurricane, which is historically unheard of,” Jeriel said. “Our island lost massive amounts of houses, buildings and facilities, and soon it will be two months since our town has had access to electricity; we’ve been living in the dark because the energy authorities’ have not been able to recuperate electrical utilities in many areas. Today, only 30% of people on the island have power.”
Jeriel said the current situation is still fragile and the island is in major need of emergency aid and reparation efforts.
“There have been reports of over 40 casualties in the area and there are thousands of people that have lost their homes and schools,” Jeriel said. “People are dying of hunger and thirst and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can barely enter the areas that are still full of debris. We are not complaining about the help that we have received so far, but we still need assistance to be able to restore educational services and be able to survive a disaster like this one as a community.”
Jeriel and Caleb said they are extremely thankful for the opportunity to further their studies despite the predicament that the aftermath of the hurricane created.
“It’s a blessing that I got to move to my aunt’s house,” Jeriel said. “She has given me everything and was the one to make this all possible. For now my future plans are to graduate from Marshall next year and just take advantage of this opportunity to build my future in the U.S.A. as a veterinarian. I hope that my people in Puerto Rico recover and just hope for the best for everyone.”
The two brothers said this event will not inhibit their future educational pursuits, and they hold high hopes for the future.
“I came here to not allow what happened to destroy and erase from my mind the future I had planned for my life,” Rodriguez said.