This morning, I drove past the Castillo de San Marcos fort in downtown St. Augustine, and all I could see is the striking resemblance it shares with the San Cristobal fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hearts of our cities are linked to one another through history.
I’ve never even been to Puerto Rico. I simply recognized the shared architectural history because I pinned so many images on Pinterest last spring, when we were hoping to make a surfing trip. It was going to be the most convenient trip to take our newborn daughter on, since no passport would be required–as it is an American territory.
I rounded the corner of our Florida fort and wondered what sort of condition the San Cristobal was in, after Hurricane Maria’s destructive winds.
I’ve seen the images of flattened homes and businesses. The entire island is flattened.
I live on Anastasia Island and it was just a few weeks ago that I expected to find my own home to look like the photos I see in Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Irma was originally shown to track up the East Coast and make landfall near St. Augustine, we packed two bags of clothes, one file folder of certificates and documents, and I shut the door of our home fully expecting every single thing in it to be destroyed by flood waters. I looked up at the ceiling and imagined it being ripped off. I looked at each window and imagined them being shattered. I let myself go ahead and grieve the loss of everything, because it seemed realistic and imminent. I texted my Puerto Rican neighbors to make sure they were okay before we left.
But we dodged a bullet yet again, and our house still stands. We are still dry. We have clean drinking water and ice in the freezer. We have electricity and internet and cell coverage. We have food in the pantry. We have toilet paper and a toilet that flushes. When my baby had a temperature the other day, I had Baby Motrin on hand to give her. I fill up her sippy cup with ice water every day. We go play in the shade of the trees in our beautiful backyard, that only suffered the usual debris of a few oak tree limbs.
As I look around at all my blessings, my maternal heart is simultaneously breaking… breaking!… as I think of all the mothers in Puerto Rico who have none of these things. They don’t have shelter. The roof was ripped off of their home. They are wading through flood waters full of feces. They do not have medicine. The generators have run out of diesel at the shredded remnants of the hospital. Their children’s elderly grandparents are sitting in sweltering heat with no food. No one has drinking water. There are no jobs to make money for things such as diesel or water because there are no structures. And at the moment, there are none of those things for them to even purchase. There’s no greenery or trees. Everything has been stripped. It stinks. It’s unsanitary. Babies are sweating. Babies are hungry. Everyone is hungry and thirsty.
There is no way out. There are no planes and there are no boats. The rich wait in long lines in the hopes for a plane, but the rest…
It’s apocalyptic. It’s catastrophic. It’s an unprecedented disaster of epic proportions.
What is a mother to do??
I look up and see my 11-month old daughter gazing out the door at the birds, rocking her baby doll. It’s in her nature to hold that doll to her breast and pat it, comforting it as if it were crying. It’s in our nature to be kind and loving to others who need us.
Right now there are American citizens who need our help. There are humans who need our help. There are grandparents, mothers, and children who need our help.
I can’t bring myself to share anything else on social media right now. I can’t bring myself to ignore these mothers.
So I’m asking you to join me in donating to their aid. I read that cash is the best thing that can help them right now. They need cash to buy water filters to give out to these 3.5 million American citizens. They don’t need water bottles, they need water filters. They need diesel to fuel their generators. I read that it will take four weeks to get the hospitals running again (which is a priority), and over six months to get the rest of everyone else back on their feet in some way. That’s a very long time to take care of a child without any essentials.
This could have been us. But it is not. So we will use all of our mothering to help those that are weaker than us.
Here is a link to charities that are immediately helping the situation. It takes just two clicks to give a small amount from your PayPal account. Imagine if all of us mothers pitched in just a little bit–what a wave of good we could do!
Please share and keep these mothers in your thoughts.
How to Help Locally:
-The UF College of Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure & Environment + the Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville have partnered to collect items. Locally, Jessica Whelpley at the Whitney Lab (Marineland) is collecting items to take to the Gainesville drop-off, if she receives them by end of day Wednesday, September 27. If you need a closer drop-off in the St. Augustine area, Leah Dannenberg has volunteered to deliver them to the Jessica Whelpley. You can contact her for an address at Dannenberg.Leah(at)uff(dot)edu. If you are able to drop off in Gainesville, the drive ends Friday, September 29. They are accepting donations for these supplies: first aid kits, diapers, baby formula, wipes, hygiene products, sleeping bags, blankets, bedding, pet food, pajamas, towels, adult diapers, mosquito repellent, batteries, canned goods and water. Student volunteers will be delivering the supplies. Click here for more information.