A fresh start is what some families are hoping for their Puerto Rican relatives, as they welcome them here to Western Washington.
“We joke that we arrived with the rain,” said Luis Omar Martinez, who landed two days ago.
He is one of eight relatives now living with Meilin Adamski and her sister Jennifer, each of whom already have families of six in Rainier.
Adamski says she tried to bring over family members before Hurricane Maria made landfall, but could not.
“It was just too hard. There were hardly tickets available: $3,000 tickets, $1,300 tickets. It wasn't possible, so unfortunately they just had to ride it out,” Adamski said.
Martinez’s family home in Aguadilla, which is about three hours from San Juan on the island’s west coast, where Maria made her exit.
“The thing is, it slowed down, so the hurricane was hitting us for 33 hours,” Martinez said.
His family home was damaged, but not destroyed. Martinez is a game designer, and had planned to move to the Seattle area at a later date.
However, he decided to come to Washington now because he has Marfan syndrome, a genetic health condition that impacts connective tissue. He says hospitals in Puerto Rico may not be equipped to handle any complications with his condition at this time.
“A lot of them don't have access to antibiotics or even oxygen,” Martinez said. “I do have damage to one of my lungs, so when I started hearing about the state of the hospitals, I realized it was dangerous to stay.”
A month after Maria, roughly 85 percent of the island is still without power. Puerto Rico is now dealing with a growing water crisis after several people died from bacterial infections.
Martinez’s cousin Charlene Sepulveda was worried her two daughters might get sick.
“I feel a little bit lost. Everything is very different from what we're used to,” Sepulveda said.
Though the relatives are thankful for the help, the reality of building new lives away from home is slowly setting in.
“You go into that survival mode where you focus on getting things done and protecting the people around you,” Martinez said. “But we're a strong people and we'll rise again.”
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