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The Legacy of Hurricane Georges in P.R.

by Guillermo Moscoso

October 3, 1998
©Copyright El San Juan Star

In the midst of our need to unite our efforts to reconstruct Puerto Rico after the catastrophic blow by Hurricane Georges, I feel compelled to remind forgetting minds that despite the deaths, devastation, anguish and despair, hurricanes also leave us a legacy to remember and a reason to reflect, particularly with respect to our priorities in life. It is worth examining some of the constructive things left us by Hurricane Georges:

  1. It reaffirmed the need to have faith in God and prayer for the spiritual and physical fortitude to confront adversity.
  2. It made us realize that the most essential things are life itself, health, food, water electricity and a roof for our homes. Everything else appears to be insignificant in the face of tragedy.
    Even political debate here regarding legislation on Puerto Rico's political status, and the local status referendum scheduled for Dec. 13, remained in suspense, except for the sniping of some opportunistic political leaders and others who have been undermining the commendable efforts of Gov. Rosselló.
  3. It proved that before God and nature, we are all equal.
  4. It proved that adversity brings out in us the spirit of unity, and of comradeship, compassion, solidarity and goodness toward our fellow men and women. This certainly would be a real island of enchantment is all these things could endure irrespective of the circumstances!
  5. It brought to light that we have men and women in public and private service, as well as volunteers, who, even at the risk of losing their lives, left their homes and families to meet their responsibilities and give others a helping hand.
  6. It reminded us of the need we have to recognize that our dear island, small, over-populated, lacking in natural resources, with 60 percent of its population still living below the poverty level, is far from being as self-sufficient as we wish it. As in other emergency situations, we also looked for aid and a helping hand from the United States, which has invariably responded generously. President Bill Clinton lost no time in declaring Puerto Rico a major disaster area, freeing, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) millions of dollars in federal funding to individuals and municipalities that suffered the ravages of Hurricane Georges. Furthermore, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Andrew Cuomo, the U.S. Small Business Administrator, Aida Alvarez, a congressional delegation, 200 federal emergency relief workers and a number of officials from federal government agencies arrived in Puerto Rico to assess the damage caused by the hurricane and committed themselves and the federal government to provide the island with immediate help in all affected areas. As I wrote this column, the U.S. First Lady Hillary Clinton also visited Puerto Rico.
  7. Hurricane Georges proved that the U.S. Army, Navy and Coast Guard operating in Puerto Rico, are not the "diabolic institutions which have been exploiting Puerto Rico and victimizing its people," as claimed by independence advocates.

Space limitations do not permit me to outline fully what the U.S. Armed Forces have done for Puerto Rico in the tragedies we have confronted. Following are some of the many things that they have done in the present emergency: a) The U.S. Air Force has flown over 700 tons of relief supplies and 316 personnel to assist in Puerto Rico's recovery; b) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping to rebuild electrical towers and reconnect lines in hard-to-reach areas; c) Roosevelt Roads Naval Station airfield is currently functioning as the only intermediate staging point for delivery of relief supplies between the mainland, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; d) U.S. Navy ships from Roosevelt Roads have delivered more than 20,000 gallons of water to Vieques and Culebra since the hurricane battered those islands. U.S. Navy transport ships continue with water transfer operations to replenish the water supply in Vieques. e) U.S. Navy personnel have assisted Vieques communities in removing most of the downed telephone poles, clearing debris, restoring damaged buildings and delivering fuel for generators; f) the U.S. Navy provided transportation to Culebra for four water-processing machines, as well as for the Puerto Rico National Guardsmen to operate them; g) the U.S. Navy installed an electrical generator in Vieques and assisted Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority trucks with power restoration; h) the U.S. Navy delivered satellite communications equipment to Culebra to provide the island with the only telephone service. There is, of course, more to say.

As we can see, the cries in Puerto Rico of "Yankee Go Home" have changed to "Yankee Come Home". And the Yankees have come and given us a fraternal hand in this catastrophe, in spite of the cowardly attacks that have been made against them.

Our limitations in tackling the catastrophes inflicted upon us by these natural phenomena, and our inevitable dependency on help and aid from the United States should be more than convincing of what our permanent union with the United States signifies.


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