My grandfather Don “Cheo” Jose Heredia Medina died at home in Utuado, Puerto Rico on September 29th. He hadn’t been well for years, but he was making do -- relying on meds, oxygen, and food at home, and steady help from others. When Hurricane Maria hit the island on September 21st, we all now know that Puerto Rico was hit as hard if not harder than anything we’ve seen in my lifetime. In the more remote interior of the island, where Utuado is located, the residents have been left helpless in the face of flooding, landslides, collapsed roadways, no power/electricity, transportation or communication, and depleted supplies of water, fuel, food, medical and other essential supplies. Many in Utuado, especially the sick and elderly like my grandfather, were isolated and essentially abandoned. My grandfather held on for nine days with no help but apparently ran out of oxygen and water, never received transportation to the local hospital or medical support, and so he died.
The devastation, destitution, and desperation is so extreme that some of the dead lie unattended, some have been hastily buried (without being “certified” dead), and some are reported to have been cremated because conditions haven’t supported burial and people are fearing that bodies will rot and spread disease in hot, mosquito-ridden conditions.
The Trump administration has done too little, too late, and it’s appalling. I’m sure this will become ever more clear to more people with time. Individuals and private organizations -- together with our governments – must and will address this humanitarian crisis with “emergency” services as well as longer-term recovery efforts.
I have other relatives in Utuado and elsewhere in Puerto Rico who are still in jeopardy. I cannot bear to sit idle while the people of Utuado and the central mountainous region are all but forgotten. My goal is to help raise money to help people there survive by either evacuating them to safety or getting them back into their homes with essential repairs and services and supplies. There will also come a time, hopefully soon, when we will create and dedicate a fitting memorial in the town Plaza to my grandfather and all others who have perished in Utuado during this disaster.
Your donation to this effort to help my family and others in Utuado will be greatly appreciated. Thank you all in advance for your support.
- Mindy Eskenazi
- Sasha Iyamu-Osagie
- Ruth Gorrin
- margarette heredia
Organizer and beneficiary
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