¡Sí, se puede! Valley residents with Puerto Rico ties optimistic about recovery

  • Greenfield resident Sonia Cruz’s father Juan Cruz, mother Sarah Molina, and nephew Zion Cruz in Puerto Rico. CONTRIBUTED photo

  • Northfield resident Linda Horta’s son, Antonio, 3-year-old granddaughter, Leianna, and 1-year-old, Emmanuel, in Seven Seas Beach in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in July. Submitted photo

  • Northfield resident Linda Horta’s 3-year-old granddaughter Leianna and 1-year-old grandson Emmanuel in a red wagon in Northfield when they visited in August. The children live in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, with their father, Horta’s son Antonio, and their mother, Horta’s daughter-in-law Corrina Steward. Submitted photo

  • Northfield resident Linda Horta’s son, Antonio, and his family went to a Red Sox game at Fenway Park in August. The family lives in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, which has been pummeled by Hurricane Maria. Submitted photo

  • Northfield resident Linda Horta’s son, Antonio, and daughter-in-law, Corrina Steward, live with their children in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, which has been devastated by Hurricane Maria. Submitted photo

For the Gazette
Friday, October 06, 2017

GREENFIELD — Insulin is a lifeline for diabetics, but it must be kept cool. And that requires refrigeration or ice.

That’s one of the dilemmas Greenfield resident Sonia Cruz’s father, Juan Cruz, is having in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, which has been left in dire straits by Hurricane Maria. Ice, food, water and electricity are hard to come by on the island that holds nearly 3.5 million American citizens, and Juan Cruz has had to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to get in line at a store for two bags of ice.

“They’re just sounding tired, because everything is out of control,” Sonia Cruz said of her family, adding that Trujillo Alto is in northeastern Puerto Rico. “But they’re handling it.”

Sonia, a 55-year-old who works at Green Fields Market, said her father is 77 and her mother, Sarah Molina, is 78. She said damage to her parents’ house was minimal.

Much of the island, a United States territory, is still reeling from the Category 4 hurricane that made landfall on Sept. 20 with wind speeds of 155 mph. The storm was stronger than Hurricanes Harvey and Irma upon landfall.

The death toll there stands at 34.

Luz Oyola, who lives in Greenfield, grew up in Comerío and still has family and friends there. She said everyone she knows is alive and safe, though there is no water, no electricity and little food. She said she wants to visit her loved ones as soon as possible, but the situation there is chaotic right now.

Northfield resident Linda Horta, who works as the assistant to the dean of engineering, math, nursing and science at Greenfield Community College, was unable to communicate with her son and his family — who live in Fajardo in the island’s northeast corner — for days before they got to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan to use wireless internet on Sept. 22.

“The communication during the time my son and family were without power was very difficult. There was not enough power at the airport to actually talk on the phone. Texts were going through, but not always,” Horta said in an email Oct. 2.

Horta’s son, Antonio, has two children — 3-year-old daughter Leianna and 1-year-old son Emmanuel — with his wife, Corrina Steward, who works from home as a life coach. Horta said Steward’s family helped re-book a Los Angeles business trip the couple planned to take with the children.

“(Steward) texted, ‘We’re at gate! A miracle. Still a journey ahead but this is a huge feat,’” Linda Horta said, adding that they are not going back to Puerto Rico until electricity and cell service are restored, and they plan to stay on the West Coast in the interim.

President Trump has been criticized for his reaction to the hurricane and his government’s relief efforts. He said on television the storm has “thrown our budget a little out of whack, because we’ve spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico, and that’s fine — we’ve saved a lot of lives,” and he was seen tossing rolls of paper towels into a crowd.

“I think it’s very insulting,” Sonia Cruz said of the commander-in-chief’s response. “He has been totally disregarding what is really going on. People are truly dying.”

She said she plans to fly her parents to her brother’s home in Palm Springs, Florida, on Oct. 16.