HAMPTON, Va (WAVY) —Hurricane Maria may be history, but Puerto Ricans are still living with its damage.
A group of five Hampton police officers just returned from a two-week trip to help.
“It was very humbling when I first got there and the sergeant told us we were directing traffic…hadn’t directed traffic in years,” said Detective Robert Viney.
What seemed a small task made a big impact. Directing traffic 12 hours a day allowed Puerto Rican officers to respond to other calls for service and deal with the impact of the storm to their own homes and families.
“Whether it was removing a tree from being inside their living room… it felt really good to be able to help them do things like that,” Officer Oscar Ruedas-Morales told WAVY.com
Detective Viney said the people in the town let them know how much they were appreciated. He recalled an encounter with one woman on the street.
“She didn’t have power, she didn’t have water, she didn’t have anything, but she grabbed my hand and she began praying for me.”
They worked in stifling heat, but the real torture for Officer Raymond Feliciano was knowing his father was so close.
He hadn’t been able to reach him since the hurricane hit.
“The first three weeks was very agonizing for me, not knowing what his condition was… he lives by himself, he’s very fragile.”
After a week of working traffic Feliciano traveled to his father’s home and surprised him. “It was very emotional for me to have been able to see him, physically touch him, and hug him.”
The sense of relief was as indescribable as the guilt of leaving so many in need.
“The need is going to continue well into next year, any agency that can afford to send help…definitely recommend it,” said Sargeamt Geoffrey Stephan.