After Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Xiomara Hammontree-Cruz, who lives in Belleville, did not hear from her family on the island for four days. When she did, her worry for her family, specifically her mother, was just beginning.
Hammontree-Cruz talked to her parents, Henry Cruz and Santa Martinez, on the phone for the first time on Sept. 30, two weeks after the devastating storm. During the few minutes they had to talk with limited reception, her mother and father said their home had completely flooded, they lost everything and had no power, but overall, everything was fine.
After the call, a text came in from a friend in Puerto Rico.
“Your mother is not looking good,” it said.
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Santa Martinez has type 2 diabetes and a muscle condition that makes it difficult for her to walk. While her mother has access to a limited supply of insulin now, Hammontree-Cruz cannot help but think about what would happen if she ran out.
“I’m afraid that if something happens and if she has to go to the hospital, she won’t be able to get in,” Hammontree-Cruz said. “They’re sending people away at the hospital, saying they don’t have enough room.”
Hammontree-Cruz has hit roadblocks at every turn as she desperately tries to bring her mother to the U.S., and help the rest of her family, from 2,000 miles away.
The post offices on the island, which just re-opened in her family’s area Wednesday, are still struggling to deliver mail. She’s sending two boxes to her family Wednesday, but she does not know if they will even make it.
Trying to find flights from Puerto Rico to the U.S. has also been a dead-end.
Even though flights to the United States have started up again, they are often canceled. Hammontree-Cruz said her mother would be stuck in the un-airconditioned airport if that happened, waiting for days if the flight did not go through.
“I can’t do anything; I’ve been going crazy. It was a war because I wanted to go home, but I need to work,” Hammontree-Cruz, who works at Scott Air Force Base, said.
Hammontree-Cruz said her parents’ beach side home in Toa Baja, where at least two people drowned, was completely destroyed in the hurricane. The combination of rainfall, ocean water and a nearby dam breaking left the entire area underwater for almost a week.
Luckily, her parents left their home before the hurricane hit Sept. 25 and are now staying with Hammontree-Cruz’s brother in Bayamon.
“It’s hard to pay attention to driving. I keep forgetting stuff. I’m so stressed out,” Hammontree-Cruz said.
Hammontree-Cruz started a GoFundMe for her family Wednesday, which had raised $540 as of Thursday afternoon.
“My spouse and I have decided to create this account to help them get a place to live and start all over again. Any donations will help,” the page read.
Hammontree-Cruz moved to the United States 13 years ago with her husband, Joshua Hammontree. They lived at Scott Air Force Base for two years and have lived in Belleville for four months.