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Three WSSU student athletes concerned about relatives in Puerto Rico (2269 hits)

By John Hinton Winston-Salem Journal

Three student athletes at Winston-Salem State University are still studying and going to practice, but their minds and hearts are frequently with their relatives in storm-stricken Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria brought overwhelming devastation when it hit the U.S. commonwealth territory on Sept. 20. The storm destroyed the island’s electric grid while it damaged homes, businesses, roads and farms.

At least 16 people were killed. The storm severely crippled the island’s economy, and government officials are still determining the monetary damages.

Michelle Murray Garcia, a native of Dorado, Puerto Rico, is a senior and a member of the women’s volleyball team. Miguel Quinn, a senior from Charleston, S.C., and a member of the Rams football team, said his mother’s relatives live in Puerto Rico.

And Randal Ortiz, a senior from Maiden and a member of the WSSU baseball team, also is a native of Puerto Rico.

Murray Garcia, Quinn and Ortiz all said they were worried and shocked when they saw news reports of the hurricane’s damage. They grew more concerned after they were initially unable to reach relatives who live in Puerto Rico.

“I was really, really worried, but I tried to stay positive,” Murray Garcia said. “I tried to stay calm. But I was worried.”

Her family home was severely damaged by the storm, she said, and her mother, Maria Garcia, lost all of her belongings in the storm. Quinn and Ortiz also said their relatives’ homes were damaged and without power.

Their house is still standing, but it’s also without electricity, Murray Garcia said. Earlier in September, Hurricane Irma knocked out power to most of the island, including her home.

“Everything on the inside is basically gone, as far as I know,” Murray Garcia said.

On Sept. 25, her brother called her. “I was thrilled to hear his voice,” she said.

Her mother then contacted her, Murray Garcia said, but she hasn’t spoken to them since then.

“There are a lot of people without homes,” Murray Garcia said. “There is no food for people. They are fighting for gas as far as I know. They are struggling. They are in need of everything.”

Quinn said that his sister, Jasmine Camacho Quinn, a student at the University of Kentucky, recently contacted their cousin, Johnny Fargas, who lives in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

The Quinns have other cousins, an aunt, an uncle and a grandmother who live in Puerto Rico.

“The family is doing fine,” Quinn said. “I think they can find (enough food and water) to survive.”

The scope of the storm’s damage to the island hit home with Quinn when he saw videos on social media of the devastation, he said.

“It’s not going to be a pretty picture,” Quinn said.

Ortiz was frustrated when he couldn’t reach his three brothers and a sister who live in their hometown of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, after the storm, he said.

He finally spoke to his brother, Edwin Alicea Ortiz, who told him about the damage that the storm caused, Randal Ortiz said. His brother’s and his uncle’s house suffered damage, Ortiz said.

“He (my brother) called my mother crying,” Ortiz said. “There is no milk for his baby, and there is no food for the family. My other brothers are trying to help him, but everyone is struggling to find food and water.”

Recovery efforts in Puerto Rico are being impeded by hundreds of fallen trees blocking roads to the cities and towns as well as blocking streets in the neighborhoods, Murray Garcia, Quinn and Ortiz said.

Ortiz’s frustration grew when he learned from news reports that even though an abundance of food, water and other vital supplies have arrived in Puerto Rico’s main Port of San Juan, the government officials can’t find enough truck drivers to deliver those items the island’s most devastated areas.

Ortiz suggested that the Puerto Rican and federal officials use helicopters to distribute those supplies. Quinn said he appreciated President Trump’s decision to waive a federal law that will allow foreign countries to import goods into Puerto Rico without first traveling to a U.S. port and transferring those items to an American ship.

Murray Garcia, Quinn and Ortiz urged Winston-Salem residents to donate food and money to the Puerto Rican recovery efforts. They also asked for local people to pray for Puerto Rico.

“The island is going to shine again,” Murray Garcia said. “We are going to get through this.”

jhinton@wsjournal.com 336-727-7299 @jhintonWSJ
Posted By: Elly Moss
Saturday, September 30th 2017 at 3:05PM
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