Opinion: Goucher’s Candles Were Not Enough

Photo Credit: WHNT News

Article by Kyrsis Sabater

On September 20, 2017, Puerto Rico was hit with the most catastrophic hurricane the island had seen in nearly 85 years. María was a category 4 hurricane that entered through Yabucoa and reached winds of 155 mph, making it almost a Category 5.

The wreckage left behind was clear: homes destroyed, roads blocked, bridges demolished, and families separated. Amongst the destruction left behind, perhaps one of the worst things was that all forms of communication in the island were left inoperable. The people of Puerto Rico were left with no means of communicating with the outside world; families and first responders left in the dark.

For some days, I could not contact my family in Puerto Rico. I had no way of knowing how bad the damage had been to their homes, how they were or if they were even alive. Perhaps that may seem drastic now, considering their homes were thankfully strong enough for that to not have to be a worry, but at that dark time, it was one of the many horrible thoughts that went through my mind.

This period in my life was perhaps the most stressful experience I have ever been through. I was a freshman who had just only barely begun to get accustomed to the college life and suddenly the only thing I found true comfort in, the ability to contact my family and feel at home with their voices, had been pulled out from under my feet. I felt alone and terrified.

Amidst this time of uncertainty, I felt as though I received the bare minimum from the college. I was not asking for something dramatic like a plane ticket back home, or for the President himself to fly to the island and help out, but perhaps something as simple as emotional support would have been enough. The college did do something. They offered a candlelight vigil for the hurricane and earthquake victims, and sent general e-mails to everyone conveying their condolences to the families, but it was not enough.

At the time, I needed someone to reach out to me personally, asking if I needed anything or if I wanted to talk or just a space. I was not confident enough and did not know anyone well enough to reach out to someone else. At that time, I could have used a helping hand.

Fortunately I was miraculously able to contact my mother fairly quickly and found out that although she had had a tough time, she was okay. With time, I was also able to contact other family members, thankfully receiving similar news.

Even throughout this time of panic and uncertainty, the only thing I thought to myself was that I must continue on, even if I knew nothing about my family, even if I didn’t have the slightest idea when I would be able to talk to them. I knew that the only thing I could do was keep moving because it was what my family would want, so that’s what I did.

At the end of the day, I was able to move forward because of myself, my family and friends, and my professors, who always expressed their concern and offered a comforting hand. It would have been nice, and perhaps even more helpful, if the college had been there for me as well, with something more than just candles.


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