For many in Puerto Rico, their lives have been forever changed. Weeks after Hurricane Maria blew through the tiny island, much of the island is still without water, electricity, and other necessities; and one local resident has now forever been changed herself after viewing the devastation.
Timbergrove resident Kim Comer, co-founder of Recovery Houston, has had hands in numerous disaster relief efforts, from the Wimberley floods to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in this very city. Thus, when an opportunity sprang up to aid Puerto Rico, Comer couldn’t say no. She recently spent almost two weeks (Oct. 5-16) on the hurricane-torn island, rushing with a team of volunteers to render aid in even the smallest possible form. Along the way, Comer said her outlook has been changed forever.
Now, she has graciously agreed to share a firsthand look at the devastation in Puerto Rico and the aid rendered through her eyes:
“My mission is complete here in Puerto Rico.
I am honored and grateful beyond belief to have been a part of the Disaster Relief response teams here in Puerto Rico. The story seems confusing because it was, and things were promised that didn’t come to pass, and we had to figure much out for ourselves and managed. However, we were able to navigate through many bumps and road blocks, twists and every moment turns, not foreseen before arriving in Puerto Rico. So, here are a few things we were able to accomplish via having the ability to use social media on an Island with only 10 percent electricity and very little ability to have connectivity to the internet or phone service:
I arrived in San Juan late in the evening on Oct. 5 and came back on Oct. 16. Even though the plan sort of fell apart, being the survivalist and logistics person that I am, I had an idea of how we could get to work – I just started seeking out places (anywhere I could find) that we could go.
From there, I just started seeking out any place I could go where I could be utilized, and found a place in downtown San Juan.
We managed to reach towns who had not been reached and provide aid to towns in the mountains driving through roads that we didn’t know would hold up, during active mudslides.
We were able to save an 8-year-old boy who would have died in two days had we not been there at that particular time, get fuel to a town where a little girl was on a ventilator, running off a generator running out of fuel, in a town in the mountains.
We were able to get and receive medications by taking pictures of lists of needs for the towns visited, sent to Houston and meds brought to PR being picked up in another town and delivered.
Volunteers managed to take lights, tarps food and water to the P.E.C.E.S mission in Humacao, that houses teenagers that are learning how to grow up to stay out of trouble; then returned two days later with more and provided water filters for 5-gallon buckets.
In terms of food, we could only give what we had, which was not a lot – maybe 25-30 boxes of cereal, and just pallets of other stuff. What got me the most was only being able to give them two cans of pineapples, knowing that might be the only thing they would have to eat. Some of them hadn’t even been reached yet. To only be able to give what we had, and watch families walk away with just a little box disturbed me in so many ways – I had to walk away a couple of times just to get my emotions back in check.
We retrieved information through social media from people on the mainland sharing information of family and friends with urgent needs, of those they know in the mountains and funnel the information to The Foundation of Puerto Rico, where they could get the help they needed the next day by distributing what they needed.
We were able to retrieve a request from someone in the town of Caguas in desperate need from an Alzheimer’s/Dementia group I am a part of, of someone caring for his 81-year-old mother in need and supplies being delivered to him. We could provide some aid to another town in Humacao, along with 2 other towns, who had not been reached for 21 days and medical needs provided of some patient’s, while there by having Doctor’s as part of our team.
It changed me, seeing a lot of what I saw. It’s so heart-wrenching that there are all these people over here in the mountains who are needing assistance, and aren’t getting it quick enough. I didn’t see very much military presence there at all when we first arrived. Some of it, I don’t even have words for – it was that devastating.
We were able to get a 103-year-old-lady and her special needs niece off of the battered Island of Vieques and transported to Florida, where they will now be provided for safely and back to comfort. I got to spend the night with them and serve them coffee, connecting them with my original teammates Sgt. Cedric Payne and Nurse Deborah Castro Ybarra of Team BAMF. The lady clenched a flashlight to her chest for fear of losing power, after 21 days living in devastating conditions.
I’m sure I have missed some of the story here, as we were able to do much more than what I can recount at this time. All and all, I would say this mission was successful. This mission has been remarkable and again I have learned and grown much, by what I have seen and witnessed here in 12 days. Forever changed. I have experienced every emotion known to man in these days here in PR and will forever be grateful for this experience.
Thank you to all who have supported our efforts and supported our well-being, here in these conditions and I will forever be grateful to many of you that I have never met and may not ever meet, but helped make this mission complete and successful. I thank you from the bottom to the top of my heart. My heart is full of Love for you.
I would go back to that mission in a minute – I didn’t even want to come back [home] this time. It was so much of an eye opener in the sense that so many times, we take for granted what we have. Since I’ve been back, it’s been difficult for me to eat large meals without thinking of them. Most times we just sit down and eat without thinking about other things. In one of these towns, there was 8,000 people, and just 10 percent water.
I saw humanitarianism at its finest over the last 14 days, and to the people of Puerto Rico, we salute you and we lift you and raise you high. You are in our thoughts and prayers as you continue to recover from this most devastating event. Lifting and loving you all, and I will be continuing to help the people in Puerto Rico from the Mainland, making connections to render aid, via social media.
Soaring Eagle, present and accounted for with a heavy heart. Mission Complete.”