By Corinne Hennessey – Contributing Writer
The destruction caused by the major hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico last month. Photo courtesy of Margaret Stracuzzi .
Several members of the Lasell Community watched as hurricanes ripped through Puerto Rico this past month.
Recent graduate Margaret Stracuzzi slated to start her first job post-grad was visiting a friend in Trujillo Alto, just south of San Juan, for a two day vacation before starting the new position this week. Before being able to leave the island, Hurricane Maria crashed onto the shores of Puerto Rico, ripping through the U.S. territory and caused massive destruction, leaving Stracuzzi stranded.
“It was 12-15 straight hours of wind and rain banging and slamming against the house. Every time I looked out the window something new had fallen on the ground. The first time I looked a telephone pole had fallen in their driveway. The next time I looked a 50 foot tree had fallen on their car. The time after that, the roof came off the neighbor’s house. It felt like a movie, I couldn’t believe what was happening,” said Stracuzzi.
Stracuzzi was lucky enough to get on one of the few planes leaving the island, and returned Saturday evening to her family unharmed but ready to do whatever she can to help disaster relief programs.
“I’m still in contact with my friends on the island. I’m just focusing on trying to not get upset about not being able to help on the ground there and finding any way I can help from the mainland,” says Stracuzzi.
Stracuzzi is not the only Lasell student feeling the aftershock of Hurricane Maria. The school’s Women’s Volleyball Team returned September 3rd from a preseason tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico just two days before Hurricane Irma hit. Freshman Allie Jo Amos recounts a tropical paradise, now left in ruins.
“We could see the storm roll in from the shore, there were severe winds and the thunder shook our hotel. It was so scary because the rain started the day we left. The airport was packed, everyone was leaving. We were lucky to leave when we did because the storm could’ve hit before our plane took off. Our tour guide told us that it was the first hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in 89 years,” says Amos. “It’s sad because I got to see the true beauty and peacefulness of the island. Now it’s destroyed.”
Students like Amos and Stracuzzi may feel helpless after leaving the island and are awaiting news about the possibility of a service trip to help with hurricane relief efforts. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable bringing a group of college students to Puerto Rico unless it was far enough in the future that we wouldn’t be in the way of first responders. If we go and get in the way of professionals who are trained in disaster relief, then we’re not helping the situation,” said Head of the Environmental Studies Department, Aaron Toffler. “We are not prepared to take care of students in that kind of environment, never mind help others. It’s great that students have the instinct to want to help in these kind of situations, but the best way we can do that now is to send donations.” Toffler is also the leader of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder trip to Ecuador.
Even though a service trip may not be available in the near future, there are still many ways the Lasell Community can help to relieve the people of Puerto Rico from home. Students and faculty members can donate to the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), who can provide the most aid to citizens, as local Puerto Rican charities do not have the resources to operate at this time.