PUERTO RICO (WOIO) - In this two-part series, Cleveland 19's Lydia Esparra recounts her recent journey that involved moving 39 boxes of aid from Cleveland to Puerto Rico. In part two, Esparra describes the heartache, love and hope she experienced when visiting her home island.
Thanks to Allegiant Airlines and Cleveland Hopkins Airport, I was able to deliver 39 boxes of supplies to Puerto Rico.
These were supplies collected, in part, by my family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
I sat next to 25-year-old Jaime Iglesias while flying from Orlando to San Juan.
He left Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, but over the weekend, he was headed home. He showed me pictures.
"It is really scary and very sad, and it's not an easy situation in Puerto Rico, so you have to stay very strong," he said when asked about the devastation on the island.
Iglesias said the the island was worse than I could imagine.
"We have food but in some places people more hard to get food." He told me they spent four hours the night of the hurricane trying to keep the water out.
His father lost his car business.
When I landed, I was surprised over how much the landscape had changed .
The paradise was gone.
I had never seen the airport so empty as I walked to collect my luggage. The luggage carousels were virtually motionless.
Only one was moving. The one from Allegiant Airlines.
At my carousel, the boxes came in -- all 39.
I finally met up with my cousin Jimmy and my Tio Junior.
We hug like we haven't seen each other in years. Remember, I was just there 8 weeks ago.
We take the boxes outside and that's where I see my Titi Glady and cousin Sandy.
The anxiety of the trip finally caught up with me.
My aunt just lost my uncle a week before Maria hit.
Gladys sends a message: "Be sure to know these things will go to the people that really needs them I know it came from your heart thank you so much and God Bless you."
And so does Junior: "Thank you to everybody to help us here in Puerto Rico. We are OK, but we are going to live we are going to better."
They promised they would take supplies to my aunts in Coamo.
We finally got a picture. They are fine.
I race through the concourse..
As I make it to my flight, I see scores of people trying to get out of Puerto Rico.
I see hundreds of wheelchairs, in them the elderly. And their faces tell the story. Fear, pain and suffering.
And all I could do was deliver boxes of supplies.
It doesn't help 3.5 million Americans. But it's a start. And you have to start somewhere.
An elderly evacuee tells me: "I love my island, my Isla. I love Puerto Rico you know."