People pass debris from Hurricane Maria in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

Victor J. Blue / The New York Times

September 26, 2017

Cornell Puerto Rican Student Association Leading Local Hurricane Relief Effort

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In the wake of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rican students wait in Ithaca for news of home.

Cornell Puerto Rican Student Association’s secretary Julia Pagán Andréu ’19, who calls San Juan home, was eager to hear news from her family — including her mother, father, sister, cousin and grandparents — who waited out last week’s storm.

“I’m just lucky that I’ve been able to get in touch with them,” she said. “I’ve seen my friends posting on Facebook asking for help in making sure their parents and loved ones are okay. So many people haven’t heard anything.”

From Sept. 25 to 29 the PRSA will sponsor donation boxes in Anabel Taylor Hall, Appel, RPCC, Mann Library, Noyes and Willard Straight Hall to send aid and assistance to families, loved ones and strangers affected by this record-setting hurricane season.

Last Wednesday, Hurricane Maria barreled toward eastern Puerto Rico after pummeling Dominica. According to NBC News, it roared toward the island “as the most powerful storm to threaten the nation in almost 90 years.” And to make matters worse, Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean just 2 weeks earlier.

“My mom doesn’t cry, and she told me that at one point she just started crying,” Andréu said. “They said it was the scariest most traumatic event they’d ever experienced.”

The double hurricane force left the country reeling, demolishing buildings and knocking out all electricity. The storm not only left a trail of destruction and record high flood waters, but it left residents without homes.

In an interview on MSNBC, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said the face of the city has altered.

“The San Juan that we knew yesterday is no longer there,” she said. “We’re looking at four to six months without electricity.”

Andréu agreed with her.

“The island [we] left in August isn’t Puerto Rico now,” she said. “We didn’t have the infrastructure to withstand this storm. I’m just very worried that people won’t care.”

So far, however, Andréu has been overwhelmed with support and consideration. Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur sent all students with a hurricane-afflicted address a personal email offering academic, emotional and financial support.

“Please know that you are in our thoughts especially as you may be managing this crisis with family and friends from a distance,” Pendakur wrote.

For Puerto Ricans left with nothing, Cornell’s PRSA requests dry or canned food, batteries, baby supplies, toiletries, mosquito repellent and over-the-counter medicine donations.

Andréu is leading the Cornell Puerto Rican student relief effort in concert with 75 other universities nationwide.

Despite the island’s devastation, Andréu remains optimistic for Puerto Rico’s future.

“This might make Puerto Rico hit rock bottom but I hope we can grow and build up from there,” she said. “My parents won’t leave. They’ll buy a generator, they’ll keep working, I know it will take a lot of time but I hope something good can come out of this.”

Cornellians can learn more about the fundraising event via the group’s Facebook page.

  • Floridiano

    And while you help this group- since you decided to get rid of Columbus Day in your school (which is part of our island’s culture as that narrative is part of our bloodline and identity)- why don’t you consider donating as well to our Indigenous community which was devastated by the hurricane’s direct hit to our properties? Here’s the link:

    https://www.gofundme.com/support-for-naguake-of-puerto-rico

  • Jay Wind

    When the Tulane campus was destroyed by a hurricane, Cornell offered to let students transfer for a semester to Cornell. Is Cornell making a similar offer to the University of Puerto Rico or the Inter American University?