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Students gather to commemorate Hurricane Maria anniversary

Students+gather+around+a+Puerto+Rican+flag+outside+the+AMU+to+share+stories+and+pray+for+those+affected+by+Hurricane+Maria.
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Students gather to commemorate Hurricane Maria anniversary

Students gather around a Puerto Rican flag outside the AMU to share stories and pray for those affected by Hurricane Maria.

Students gather around a Puerto Rican flag outside the AMU to share stories and pray for those affected by Hurricane Maria.

Photo by Grace Connatser

Students gather around a Puerto Rican flag outside the AMU to share stories and pray for those affected by Hurricane Maria.

Photo by Grace Connatser

Photo by Grace Connatser

Students gather around a Puerto Rican flag outside the AMU to share stories and pray for those affected by Hurricane Maria.

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Students gathered outside the Alumni Memorial Union Thursday evening to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

Flowers surrounded the Puerto Rican flag on the lawn between the AMU and Schroeder Hall. Students stood around the flag and held a moment of silence for the lives lost. They also shared stories of survivors and prayed.

“We went through that whole struggle of not being able to communicate with our families for the longest time because the island was in complete devastation,” Linamarie Justiniano, a senior in the College of Communication, said.

Cristofer Borghese, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, attended the event.

“We joined together in solidarity to bring us closer,” Borghese said.

The Category 4 hurricane traveled through the island Sept. 20, 2017. Some Puerto Rican students said they were born and raised on the island, and they said their families were still there when the hurricane hit.

Ali De Luca, a junior in the College of Communication, said it’s not just about remembering who died in the hurricane, but also who died because of the hurricane’s effects, such as the widespread power outages.

“Today really showed us how people can come together no matter where you are from and what unites us all,” De Luca said. “Its just being human, and it’s really beautiful to see.”

Fhernam Batiz, a sophomore in the College of Engineering, said the hurricane was a crisis for the people of Puerto Rico.

“Everyone needed money, needed groceries, no credit cards could be used. The ones that didn’t have cash couldn’t buy anything,” Batiz said.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than 166,000 homes need repair or reconstruction after the storm. The site states that after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico had no electricity, no water, no telecommunications and no transportation systems. Additionally, FEMA states Hurricane Maria was the largest and longest federal response to a domestic disaster in the history of the United States. After the storm hit, the website said Puerto Rico’s entire electrical grid failed.

Batiz said the power came back one year later. “Who knows what might happen if another hurricane comes to Puerto Rico,” he said.

Borghese said there is a lot of controversy regarding how many people have died from the hurricane, especially with (President) Donald Trump publicly doubting the numbers.”

“We want to show the pain that Puerto Rico went through isn’t just a number; its all of us still going through it today,” Borghese said.

According to CNN, 2,975 people died in Hurricane Maria. A study done by New England Journal of Medicine reports that more than 5,000 deaths occurred, whereas the site also states the local Puerto Rican government declared the official death toll count as 64.

Justiniano said that after the hurricane, “we (Puerto Rican students) woke up and needed to do something.”

“We wanted to come together as a Puerto Rican community, to be united because that’s what Marquette is all about. It’s about community and love and being there for one another,” Justiniano said.

Puerto Rican students were in school when the storm hit, having limited, if any, communication with families still living on the island.

“I didn’t have any form of communication with my family for three weeks,” Batiz said. “Tests, assignments — I had all of that at the same time, plus the stress of not being able to talk with my family, not knowing if they were okay, if everybody was okay.”

De Luca said every time she tried calling her dad on the island, it would ring but the call would never go through.

“My heart would just drop every time. I couldn’t get in touch with him until three weeks after,” De Luca said.

Justiniano said it was a hard year but that she was grateful the Marquette community helped him through the whole process.

As for now, students from Puerto Rico have a new motivation behind their studies.

“I am the future for my family,” Batiz said. “(In) Puerto Rico right now … (the) debt is too big for us to pay. The hole gets bigger if you’re down there. You don’t know how to get up if someone doesn’t help you from the top.”

Justiniano said that as Puerto Rican students, living and creating careers outside of Puerto Rico is part of the goal.

“I personally want to gain all the experience and knowledge here and then when I’m a professional, go back and give back to my people and make Puerto Rico better,” Justiniano said.

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About the Contributor
Grace Connatser, Executive News Producer

Grace is the Executive News Producer for MUTV. She is a junior from Knoxville, TN, studying journalism and digital media. She was previously a News Reporter...

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