It’s not easy to describe.
It hits me every time I watch the news.
It hits me like a ton of bricks.
It hits me sometimes when I’m just walking to class, going about my day.
To say it hits me hard is a gross understatement.
It hits me when I’m laying in bed late at night, unable to sleep, overwhelmed with the weight of my uselessness in this situation.
It creates a pit in my stomach every time I scroll through Facebook and see headline after headline of the devastation that has struck a tiny little island that nearly half of Americans don’t know is a commonwealth of the United States.
The “it” I am referring to is the indescribable, numbing feeling of uselessness when you’re forced to watch your family suffer and your island slowly start to crumble.
Because for me, it hits too close to home. It is home.
I have family spanning the island of Puerto Rico – my abuelita, aunts, uncles and cousins in Aguadilla, family in Arecibo, Aguada, Naranjo and San Juan. My mom and her 15 siblings are from originally from Aguadilla. We come from a proud Boricua family, generations of history represented in each and every one of us.
I waited and waited and waited for days to hear back from my family when Hurricane Maria first hit, nervously twiddling my thumbs, struggling to get air into my lungs.
I, Angla Hatcher, the woman who’s phone is always on do not disturb (ask anyone who knows me) have had my phone off do not disturb for the past two weeks and on full volume. In meetings, in class, at dinners…it doesn’t matter where. It’s always on because I’m in a perpetual state of waiting to hear bad news.
The relief I felt when my phone buzzed and my cousin Steph texted me and told me everyone was accounted for was short lived. It was in that moment, when she texted me and told me that state of things, that I was absolutely certain of two things. Firstly, all my tías, tíos, primos and beloved abuelita were alive. And secondly, every single person’s life was – is – still incredible precarious.
This was the text I received:
“I’m ok. It was catastrophic in parts of the island. Still haven’t heard from my fam since cell towers fell on the west side. I’m so scared and nervous as to how we’re gonna deal with this… they’re estimating we’ll be without power or water for month. How can we recover if we can’t recover? There’s a lot of uncertainty. Sense of community has to be stronger than ever. Staying positive to survive.”
I want to paint a picture for you – a picture of the current state of my island.
Gas is scarce. Hundreds of cars line up on the highways, waiting to get just an ounce of gasoline so they can go get family members in areas where the devastation is worse.
There are streets that are entirely flooded. The images surfacing of people in makeshift boats – floating on pieces of broken doors and wood – are heart wrenching.
People are breaking into houses to steal goods they’d otherwise have to wait in massive lines to receive. Diabetic patients are flooding hospitals because they can’t refrigerate their insulin without electricity.
Hospitals are barely operating on their diesel powered generators. Some have shut down because of generator failure. The patients are subsequently released. Even those in need of intensive and immediate care.
Relief has only barely begun to trickle in. Yes, the lifting of the Jones Act was an immense stride toward getting Puerto Rico the aid it needs, but more can be done. So why isn’t it being done?
Today, President Donald J. Trump announced that he has dedicated a golf trophy to the people of Puerto Rico – the people that he claims he loves so much and are a part of this great country.
On behalf of myself – a proud Boricua – let me be the first to say we don’t need or want your fucking golf trophy.
We need help.
Do you think the people who have lost everything they know because of this disaster care about a golf trophy?
My family needs help.
Do you think the people that are staring at the rubble of their former homes care about a golf trophy?
My island needs help.
Do you truly believe that the people of Puerto Rico, wondering how the hell they’re going to make ends meet as they sit and wait without electricity, with minimal cell service, care about a golf trophy?
I sure as hell don’t. Because a golf trophy and your empty words are not going to calm me when I wake up in the middle of the night wondering if everyone I care about is going to be okay.
If you want to help Puerto Rico in a non-golf trophy related, meaningful way, please donate to the following organizations.
“Unidos”: A Hurricane Relief Fund for Hurricane Maria Victims in Puerto Rico
American Red Cross