A Note from the Puerto Rico Earthquake Relief Operation

By: AJ Suero

AJ Suero is a communications manager at the American Red Cross Eastern Pennsylvania Region, currently assisting with the earthquake relief effort in Puerto Rico.

January 15, 2020. Guánica, Puerto Rico. American Red Cross member AJ Suero observes damage to homes impacted by earthquakes in the town of Guánica. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Last week I met a man whose home was destroyed by an earthquake back on January 11th. His son would be turning five in just a couple of days and amidst the devastation he still wanted to make the day special. He and his wife decided to move forward with a birthday celebration in spite of the loss that they had just suffered, and they decided to take the family camping to a nearby hill, where they cut his birthday cake. The young boy thanked him for a “special camping birthday,” not realizing that the tent would now become their new temporary home.

There have been so many other interactions, so many faces and a lot of devastation – each one as heartbreaking as the last. As a member of our Public Affairs team, my job is to help tell the story of what is happening through images, videos and stories.

Many on the island are so worried about adjusting to their new day-to-day reality, and yet their struggles are unknown to many. For many of us, home is a refuge; a place of solace where we can escape from all of the dangers of the world. The people of Guayanilla, Yauco, Guánica and other surrounding areas now fear going home due to the ongoing aftershocks that are felt multiple times every single day.

January 15, 2020. Guánica, Puerto Rico. Pista Complejo Deportivo Edilberto Cruz. American Red Cross member AJ Suero distributes a Red Cross comfort kit to shelter resident. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

Some have completely lost their homes due to destruction, others are not able to return because the structure has been deemed unsafe, but many have lost the sense of home because they fear that the next tremor may be the big one. Many are sleeping in camp cities – locations such as stadiums, parks and large open areas.

The needs are great, and the Red Cross will continue to serve these affected communities for the weeks and months to come.

January 16, 2020. San Germán, Puerto Rico. American Red Cross member AJ Suero enjoys an imaginary tea visit with 3-year-old Mijah at the shelter in San Germán. Photo by Scott Dalton/American Red Cross

For more on the relief effort and how to help, visit: https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2020/puerto-rico-red-cross-responds-as-quakes-take-out-power.html

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