Superstorm Sandy had a huge impact at the Jersey shore, drowning our towns and ripping our favorite memories to shreds. The scene in Puerto Rico is no different except that instead of just the shore towns being affected, it’s the entire country. Imagine, the entire state of New Jersey being without power or running water, no cell phone towers and no access to radio. On top of that imagine massive flooding and mudslides. The shore towns experienced some of this. It was devastating for us.

As I sit here writing this, I think back to how we as a community, as a people, responded with our love and devotion to helping us “RESTORE THE SHORE”. I personally collected donations and volunteered at a few locations. Many of my friends lost everything and I felt helpless for them, but things are things and my friends are okay. Unfortunately, I do not know if my family and friends that live in Puerto Rico are ok. There are so many Puerto Rican people here in NJ that have family and friends that live on the island. So many of us that do not know if our family is safe. So many of us with memories of places that are now unrecognizable. The worst part is, there is nothing we can do right now but sit and wait.

I spoke to some people and the biggest fear is the not knowing if our loved ones are okay. We as Puerto Ricans are very stubborn, myself included. We have a strong pride about us and yet at our worst times, we are resilient. We can put a smile on our face and push past the obstacle. We also would help anyone that needs it, no matter what race or creed.

Sujeil Villanueva Vincent of Lincolnville, SC formerly of Long Branch, NJ has family in Rio Grande. The home her family lives in has been in the family for generations and was first owned by her great-grandparents. Vincent says that she “Worries about the mudslides.” She also has an uncle that refused to leave his home. “We are stubborn, we don’t want to leave our houses. My heart is with New Jersey and the people of Long Branch and all of Puerto Rico. It’s not even just Puerto Rico. It’s Mexico too. They have lost so many in the Earthquake.”

I have known Sujeil since we were children. Speaking to her about this gave us both a sense of comfort. Knowing each other, but not exactly being in contact except for social media just goes to show that we as a Puerto Rican people come together when needed the most.

A friend of mine, Ralph Colon of Hamilton, NJ, called me and we shared some information and connections and I asked him what he thought about everyone coming together to support one another. He said “It makes me proud to be Puerto Rican and the island is at a terrible place at the moment, but the spirit of the Puerto Rican people and the community both on the mainland and the island are resilient. This brings us closer and stronger as a people. The Puerto Rican community has to keep fighting and stay strong. Help is on the way!”

Rachel Frontiero of Hamilton, NJ was in Morovis, Puerto Rico at the time of Hurricane Irma. Her experience there was “Really, really scary. There were really strong winds, the tin roofs were coming off. The light posts were moving. I have never experienced anything like this.” While she was there she stayed in her sister’s cement house. Her mother, who she said was stubborn, stayed in her wooden house instead of being with family in a sturdier location. Frontiero says that she “wouldn’t be surprised if my mother stayed in her house again this time.” After Irma, she said there were “a lot of trees down, there was debris in the streets and mudslides. People were without power for exactly a week. They had no water for a day and a half. It was a scary experience.” A distraught Frontiero added that she “wants to get together with friends and organizations to participate in fundraising events as a volunteer. I will help as much as I can. Not just for my family but the whole island. This is devastating, especially not knowing, I feel helpless.”

The helplessness that Rachel feels is shared by many, including myself. I have no word on how my family is doing. As of right now, I can only pray that when the cell towers are repaired, I will be phoned with good news.

Until then, I am going to do what I can to help. Staying positive and showing support to my fellow Boricuas. Yo soy Boricua! I am Puerto Rican and I am proud.

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