Proof Positive of a Promise Fulfilled
On September 6th, 2017, my parents were in Newark airport when they heard over the intercom that their flight to Puerto Rico had been cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. I couldn’t help but feel gratitude that my parents weren’t headed into the eye of the hurricane that day. However, that feeling was short lived because less than one week later, they were both in Puerto Rico and this time around they would not be as lucky. Hurricane Maria had its sight set on Puerto Rico and the probability of a direct hit was very high. My sisters and I immediately jumped into action and purchased my mom a flight on September 18th, when she finally gave in to our pressure to return home. Mirroring Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”
But our victory was short lived because on September 19th we were notified that her flight had been cancelled. Worst yet, Maria had intensified over night and the chances of a miss were cut in half. On September 20th, we awoke to the heart-breaking news that Maria had slammed into the island and destroyed it. The winds were so strong that all forms of communication had been wiped out. I did what anyone else would have done in my situation, I jumped online and began looking for information about Aguada and Aguadilla, the pueblos that my parents were from. I barely slept and no matter how hard I looked, I came up empty. However, this only applied to them! In my virtual travels, I found countless bits of information, good news and bad news. I got my hands on federal communication reports stating cell phone tower availability by municipality. This helped people to know that they could continue to reach out until they got through and a lot of people did.
I also began helping Dee Smalling, the founder of Disaster Online Relief Support, who specialized in wellness checks. One case in particular really impacted me and how I felt about what I was doing. We received an Amber Alert from London reported by the parent of a child. A lot was lost in the translation and we were unable to get more information when the call dropped. I shared what we had and not more than two minutes later someone whom I had previously helped sent me a message saying, "I know the head of security in that complex." He reached out, but despite the security guard not having heard of any issues he went around to confirm all was well. As it turned out the child was not missing, the problem was that the generator powering the equipment to keep him alive ran out of gas. Needless to say, that child survived because of a bunch of strangers coming together for the greater good.
A couple of days later, Dee Smalling shared her disappointment about not being able to travel to Florida to meet with a Senator and Goya executives because of funding issues. I called her and asked for her Paypal account and hung up and sent her the money. She called me back and thanked me profusely. I said, "There is no need. We are in this together, go get'em girl!" Little did I know that this act of brotherly love would be the catalyst for what was yet to come.
On the first week of October, the Live, Love Laugh Life Group setup a relief drive for Puerto Rico. They would get the supplies to Puerto Rico by utilizing a private plane and pilot, who stated he could deliver the supplies quickly. It was incredible to witness, 1 Corinthians 12:14 “For the body is not one member, but many” being acted out first hand. The expectation had been to possibly fill a trailer with supplies, however the outpouring of donations not only from the church, but from friends, family and community had been so great, that a 2nd trailer was required. Little did we know at that time that the relief drive would be the easy part.
Right around this time my cousin Benny who is part of the management team for United Airlines, reached out offering to rescue