by Victoria Hernandez
Seven weeks after Hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rican community at Manhattan College feels a mix of emotions after they experienced the disaster from far away.
For Dr. Christie González-Toro, assistant professor of the Department of Kinesiology, seeing the destruction that the hurricane caused to the island was a “roller coaster of emotions.”
“I felt agony without knowing of my family and friends for over a week,” she said. The house of one of her family members flooded causing a loss of 90 percent of what was inside.
Even the professional community in the island has been directly affected.
“My friends are giving me news of probabilities of getting laid off from their jobs because of the low demand for business,” González-Toro said.
Frustration is her main feeling.
“I feel frustrated because I have been helping but [I’m] feeling [like] I am not doing enough.”
But in the midst of her sadness, she’s grateful for the empathy she has received from the Jasper community.
“I am thankful of all my students and colleagues that showed their support,” González-Toro said.
For her, knowing that many Puerto Ricans lost everything is a daily struggle that she deals with.
“It is difficult to completely heal when you know that people lost everything, are lacking of basic resources to live and they are not getting the help they need,” González-Toro said. “In addition, as an educator it is devastating to know that children are not getting the education needed due to the lack of electricity and water.”
For Keyla Torres-Piñol, freshman biology major, remorse and anxiety are her current feelings.
“Everything I was surrounded with when I grew up has been destroyed. My family lost everything,” Torres-Piñol said.
She has been impacted even financially.
“I’m striving to figure stuff on my own. I have a hold on my account I don’t know how to deal with,” Torres-Piñol said.
For students like her, Campus Ministry & Social Action (CMSA) hosted a gathering for students impacted by recent natural disasters, including Puerto Rico, Southern Florida, the Houston area, Morelos, Mexico and the surrounding area on Sept. 29.
“It has affected me immensely, but thankfully I have a great track team that have become my family and have given my support,” Torres-Piñol said.
Angie Delgado, a junior communication major, is still in shock and disbelief.
“It broke my heart to see how my land became broken in just a few hours,” Delgado said.
But like many other students, Delgado decided to heal by helping.
“My first action towards healing was immediately trying to find ways to help. I started spreading the word of the incident and the needs my people were in. It was nice to see the quick action people took to help,” Delgado said.
Delgado is putting things into perspective and realizing how blessed she has been in comparison to others affected.
“I know there are Puerto Ricans out there who have it much worse than me. People have lost hope and have left [the island] searching for something better. Those who stay are heroes because they don’t give up,” Delgado said.
Guillermo García, junior accounting major, narrates how his grandfather had to climb to the roof of his two-story house because his whole house got flooded.
Like García, Torres-Piñol and González-Toro, each Puerto Rican at Manhattan College has been affected by this natural disaster.
“I do believe we should stick together. We should at least get together regularly and talk about this,” Garcia said. Not a lot of people would understand what we’ve been gone through but sticking together and feeling the sense of community would help emotionally.”