Saturday, January 19, 2019
The Profile

30 Seconds of Static: Agnes Students Bear the Loss of Communication to Loved Ones in the Caribbean

Angelica Martini

Staff Writer

Sweeping through the Caribbean this past September, Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria did more damage than structural. Families with relatives off of the islands have suffered from loss of communication with loved ones, making the survival through this time of natural disaster that more unbearable.  

Less than a month into the fall semester, students like Leah Trotman ‘21 were left adrift, wondering the well being of the families they left behind.

“Imagine not knowing where your parents are in a category five hurricane, and you are just seeing pictures of torn houses on Facebook,” said Trotman.

Native to St. Thomas, Trotman is currently 1600 miles away from her home. The night of Sept. 7 left her restless, yearning for signs of safety from her family.

“I waited up until 2 a.m. to see if they would call,” said Trotman.

For Leah, it would be two days after Irma had passed that she would hear from her mother. They spoke for thirty seconds filled with static via the family’s satellite phone.

Carla Bosch ‘21 was in a similar situation.

“I know everyone here is hurting, and trying to communicate with their families,” said Bosch.

Bosch’s grandmother just recently moved back to Ponce, Puerto Rico from the United States mainland and has been living on the island for six months. With few means of communication, it has been difficult for Carla’s family to assess the best situation to assure her grandmother’s safety.

“All communication has been through other people,” said Bosch.

Air traffic in and out of Puerto Rico has been minimized due to the loss of electricity, making it a challenge for islanders to leave or for families to move and assist restoration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  has offered for volunteers to enter the island with the intent to stay for a minimum of two months. However, many families are stuck to choose between the financial loss of two months salary and the responsibility to their hometowns.  

“I feel kind of helpless, and it makes me worry more,” said Bosch.

Support groups have spread across campuses offering prayer, well wishes, and comfort for students, faculty, and staff whose families have been affected by the catastrophes. In response to the disasters that have occurred in the past month, Agnes Scott College has created a relief committee to help promote different ways to provide support. The Irvine released details Oct. 3 on specific organizations providing humanitarian aid to the islands including Adopt-A-Family and Global Giving.

Relief will continue as the Caribbean works toward recovery way into the new year.  

A plane in Vieques, an island off Puerto Rico’s coast, was found in
pieces after Hurricane Irma. Photo courtesy of Shannon Matthews.


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