Maria’s aftermath in Puerto Rico - The Boston Globe
When I step off the plane in San Juan, eight days after the devastation, I see them. A wall of people trying desperately to get out of the country. They fill the airport — families, people in wheelchairs, people of all ages. Some have been camped out for days. It’s the first of a million long lines I will encounter in six days on the island. People are waiting for things we take for granted: gas, laundry, cash, water, food, medicine, shelter. At first the lines are jaw-dropping. After a while, they just become infuriating. Outside of San Juan, signs of Hurricane Maria are everywhere. A countryside entirely stripped of its foliage, debris strewn about, homes without roofs. Heading west, I spot a couple on the side of the highway carrying a basket of laundry down a steep hill. By the time I turn around to photograph them, they’re down in a stream washing their clothes. A few exits later, in Toa Baja, people are shoveling mud out of their homes. Manuel Albert Ruiz tells me a harrowing story about how he rescued his neighbor as the street began to flood in the middle of the storm. He calls her down to the street and demonstrates how he did it, scooping her up with one arm and tucking her to his side. They’re both laughing even though he’s in the midst of throwing away everything he owns. That night, Manuel’s wife will e-mail me and ask if I can send some of the pictures I shot of his baby photos. The framed photos had been covered in mud, and Manuel was throwing them away. His wife wanted my photos of them for her children. “Thank you! You have no idea what those few pictures mean to us,” she wrote. Reading her note, I wish I could do more. You want to fix things. You press the shutter. You hope, you shoot, you hope some more.