My cousin came to visit a few weeks back. He has been living in Florida for almost 15 years.
He sat in our living room and we laughed and talked and of course, the hurricane came up. He sobered up and said “oh my God. That was a horrible week. I had such a horrible time.”
And I almost slapped him. “YOU had a horrible week?! Bitch, you will not sit there and tell me that you, back at home with your power and your running water, and your hospitals open and your not destroyed surroundings, had a horrible week. Shut up right now, I’ll tell you about a horrible week.”
I mentioned that we had to shower outside, we had to collect rain water, we had to ration potable water because we didn’t knew when we were going to be able to get more. We had no phones, so we couldn’t call anyone. Communications were so badly affected that the governor, having the highest tech in the island, was giving out wrong information because news traveled so slowly from one place to the other.
He knew all of that. I said “but what you don’t know, what you can’t see, is the fear. It was a lingering fear, one that ran so deep sometimes you couldn’t put your finger on it.” What’s this feeling that covers us like a veil, at all times? Oh, right, we are scared.
I would go outside with Little J and literally physically guard her as she walked because suddenly any fall that could result in an open injury was terrifying: hospitals were mostly closed, but the ones that were open were very risky to go to. Most had no generators for the first weeks, or only had them for the first days, so bacteria and infections hijacked entire wings. People would go to be treated for one thing and suddenly got an infection and just died because basic medication was so scarce. I’m a hysterical mom, so we didn’t played outside much during that critical time.
Emergency agencies seemed to be something that didn’t exist. We needed medication, no one could get it. We needed water and food, it took weeks for people to receive it. When we started getting news from outside, it looked like help was not coming because ports were impenetrable. I mean, all that big water.
I heard the president say that only 30 people died in a conference room, right before throwing paper towels (PAPER TOWELS) and I couldn’t believe no one corrected him. Portable military freezers were filled with bodies without logging information because no agency could keep official records in an effective way, and we saw that in the news, so how didn’t he knew?
The missing list was on the hundreds within the first week after the hurricane, how didn’t he knew?
We had reported deaths of asthma patients who couldn’t power their nebulisers within the first few weeks, and how didn’t he knew?
We had a break out of influenza and leptospirosis in october, how didn’t he knew.
I’m not a crier, but I cried every day. Well, it was mostly every night. Tears would just come out from mental exhaustion, frustration and terror. All the what if’s clouded my mind and for the first time in my entire life, I couldn’t sleep well, no matter how tired I was. I started waking up and staying awake for hours, mostly before sunrise.
So, no. I’m not forgetting any of what happened, or anything that’s been said. By anyone. I will not forget.
I will not forget.