×

Wilton couple discusses Hurricane Maria aftermath

  • Limary Lorenzo, Luis Vega and two of their three children pose for a picture at a cafe in Wilton on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Volunteers collect food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Charlotte Roeault, of Massachusetts, helps collect food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sheilla Parkerson, of Jaffrey, packs food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Volunteers collect food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Sheilla Parkerson, of Jaffrey, collects food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • From left: Dahlia, 7, Drake, 10, and Sheilla Parkerson advertise supply collection at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Volunteers collect food supplies at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. The supplies will be trucked to Concord and eventually shipped to Puerto Rico. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • A water jug sits waiting to be shipped to Puerto Rico at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce on Monday, Oct. 2, 2017. Courtesy photo—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, October 02, 2017
How to help: Gov. Chris Sununu announced his office, in coordination with the state’s Emergency Management, will accept donations for the victim of Hurricane Irma and Maria.A news release says on Oct. 3 and 4 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., people can drop off bot

Sitting in a cafe in Wilton on Thursday, Limary Lorenzo and her husband, Luis Vega, were more than 1,000 miles away from their native island home, but Puerto Rico wasn’t far from their mind.

The Caribbean island was battered by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20. The fierce category 4 storm brought 150 mph winds and severe flooding to the area. More than a week later, there’s still no power with the exception of some generators that are keeping important buildings running like hospitals. The island is running out of food and fuel, and there’s still spotty cell phone and internet reception.

Lorenzo and Vega, who moved from Puerto Rico to New Hampshire with their three young daughters about eight weeks ago, said for almost a week after Hurricane Maria made landfall they didn’t hear anything from their family members.

“It was so hard, the hardest thing that we had to go through,” Lorenzo said of the silence after the storm.

Finally, on Sept. 26, Lorenzo heard from her mother. The next day, Vega heard from his parents. Then, reports from their extended family and friends started to update across their Facebook feed. On Thursday, Lorenzo and Vega kept a close eye on their phones, watching as the social media sites updated with fresh content.

Lorenzo pointed to a status that had just been posted by a Facebook friend: “Battered, bruised, and blessed to be alive,” the post read: “Our island is suffering. We love you all.”

A woman Lorenzo knows texted her: “I’m eating just once per day, and only a little bit.”

Lorenzo said the woman is leaving the majority of the food for her kids because she doesn’t know when the reserves are going to run out.

She heard another report about a man who walked three hours with two dollars in his pocket to buy basic supplies from a store.

On Thursday, Lorenzo and Vega said U.S. leaders have been slow to respond to the crisis on the island.

“They discuss and discuss and discuss, but do nothing,” Lorenzo said about U.S. leaders.

She said on Wednesday that politicians had lifted the Jones Act, a federal law that limits shipping to the island by foreign vessels and makes it twice as expensive to ship things from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico.

“But this waiver is for 10 days ... 10 frickin’ days,” Lorenzo said. “It’s a step. We need to continue, keep pushing Congress to maybe extend this waiver and then the help they need.”

On Thursday, she said, Congress also needs to send military personnel in to restore order and to send supplies like clean water, food, medical supplies, and gasoline and diesel fuel to keep the generators operating.

“Everyone can do something from here [U.S. mainland] starting with pressure from Congress because people are hungry there, people are desperate and these people are American citizens,” Lorenzo said.

The sluggish response could be due to the confusion surrounding the territory. A recent poll published in the New York Times, states that only 54 percent of Americans are aware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens.

Puerto Rico residents vote in presidential primaries, but the island doesn’t get electoral votes in general presidential elections. Puerto Rico has a non-voting member in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But President Donald Trump’s Twitter account painted a very different picture of response efforts in the wake of the natural disaster on Friday.

“FEMA & First Responders are doing a GREAT job in Puerto Rico. Massive food & water delivered. Docks & electric grid dead. Locals trying really hard to help but many have lost their homes. Military is now on site and I will be there Tuesday. Wish press would treat fairly!” two separate tweets read on Friday.

Sheilla Parkerson, who grew up in Puerto Rico but now lives in Jaffrey, said she has a lot of family and friends on the island.

Parkerson said on Monday that she recently spoke to her brother who is still there and “seems to be doing OK.” He didn’t lose his car or home. She said her mom’s home also withstood the storm’s wrath.

From New Hampshire, Parkerson said, it’s really hard to gauge how quickly the government is responding to the disaster.

“It’s really hard for me to judge,” she said of the response times. “I want to have faith in our government.”

She said she is connected to some radio stations in Puerto Rico and she hears a lot of people saying things like, ‘Where’s the help? And when will the electrical lines power back up?’”

Parkerson said a number of tragedies have struck the U.S. in succession recently, alluding to Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Hurricane Irma in Florida, Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, and the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history in Las Vegas on Sunday. 

“A lot of stuff is going on so I feel that it's just a matter of getting the help where it needs to go,” Parkerson said about relief efforts in her home territory.  

Instead of discussing the government’s response to the disaster, Parkerson is helping by organizing a two-day effort to collect donations at the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce. She said donations will be collected until today at 4 p.m. The items will then be trucked to Concord and then shipped to the island.

“Every little bit helps,” she said.

Lorenzo said people need to do whatever they can from wherever they are to support the island.

“Every day, if we continue this way, a lot of people are going to die,” Lorenzo said on Thursday. 

 Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.