GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As federal emergency crews are headed to Puerto Rico to help in recovery efforts after Hurricane Fiona dropped 2 feet of rain on the island, a Puerto Rico native in Grand Rapids waits anxiously for updates from her family there.
Phone calls provide some comfort for Cindy Rivera in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona. Her son Ernesto Soto is on the other end of the line. He calls when he can to reassure Rivera that he and his grandparents in Puerto Rico are OK, but with power and cell service out through most of Puerto Rico, Ernesto has to move around to get a signal.
Rivera says the situation is not as bad as the aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria, but it’s still difficult to deal with from afar.
“Maria, we lost everything in our house. But right now, no. There’s no damage like that. Not compared to Maria,” Rivera said.
Maria was just the start for the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.
“It’s like one after the other: hurricanes, then the earthquakes, then the COVID situation. It was like nonstop since 2017,” Rivera said.
Rivera is from Penuelas, a town of over 20,000 people in southern Puerto Rico. She, her husband and college-age daughter moved to Michigan in 2018 when Rivera took a job with Grand Rapids Public Schools, where she is now an assistant principal. Ernesto stayed behind with Rivera’s parents.
For Rivera, the only thing worse than being in Puerto Rico is being 2,000 miles away with loved ones still there. She carries her phone wherever she goes, hoping Ernesto can find service and call with updates.
“Our hearts are broken because we are not there right now,” Rivera said. “We know that we can’t do anything, but it’s just that we are here. Not with them. “