This week, Captain Richard Forney from The Salvation Army Aurora was deployed for another round of disaster relief service; this time to Puerto Rico. In September, he served after Hurricane Harvey tore its way through Texas. Now he’s seeing the incredible, terrible damage in Puerto Rico – and sharing his experience via Facebook as much as he can with extremely limited electricity, phone service, and internet.
His stories are compelling and his photos illustrate the devastation of the island. Below we share some of his reports on his first days there (quoted from his Facebook posts).
We had many people on the plane coming to PR. A few groups from churches spoke to me while we boarded, excited to be serving…. As we came closer to the ground I could see many blue tarp covered homes patterned like a quilt all over San Juan. There was loud cheering in the plane as we landed, so many people desperate to see their loved ones.
I want to make note of everything I see that stands out, so it doesn’t become “normal” to me.
What I’ve learned so far: Yes there are unmet areas yet to receive supplies, and roads that can’t be driven on.
Went to Guayama to the PR Kroc and met with Maj Mercado. They are serving 1200 per day out in the community including 300 seniors.
Their building has been hit hard even though it was built to withstand.
Glass doors rated for hurricane winds cracked, some ripped off their hinges entirely and the skylights in the gym roof gave way.
Went to Ingenio. North side of island. Water was released from a dam upriver in the night (Deja Vu Beaumont TX). 2 here died in the storm. We have our a truck full and two mini van loads as well as much as we could put in the Jeeps Homeland Security is driving providing security for these fire run missions.
I was able to talk with many today, hugging many seniors and tears of gratitude and joy. People hoped for water over anything else. We are limited in that. We give what we can, empty the trucks and head back.
Sooo much need we can’t begin to address transition to recovery as things are.
– from later that day –
…It’s really dark outside here, as soon as the sun sets I seek the comfort of the indoors. There’s no way I want to be returning from somewhere after hours. I find that the very idea of trying to navigate bumper to bumper highways and streets while driving without stop lights, street signs, overhead street lamps, lit up storefronts and visible landmarks.
This becomes the descriptors in a metaphor of where we (and all those on this Island) also find themselves in seeking solutions based on identifying signs, illumination we take for granted, and recovery benchmarks that are not visible here.
Allow me to explain further.
You know how often we shoot the breeze solving world problems as we kick back over some coffee and donuts? Well we are here, doing the same, but can’t walk away at the end. We have to make a strategic move on this chess board that is going to provide options for successive future ones leading toward a successful outcome. We are forced to face the real problems of understanding the complexities present here in several organizational systems (including our own). We must take into account one’s limited capacity to continue to operate at a high functioning level under prolonged duress.
We have to look past the EDS [Emergency Disaster Services] daily activity to honestly tackle the toughest of questions regarding what a healthy normal will look like and how to ensure we get there.
We’ll share of Captain Richard Forney’s experiences as he continues his service in Puerto Rico. If you’d like to make a donation to support relief efforts, please visit HelpSalvationArmy.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.