“It screamed, it howled, it barked, it hollered, it was like phantasms screaming and flying overhead.”
Elier was eight years old when Hurricane Maria ripped through his two story cement house located less than 500 feet from the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline is his playground, his front yard, his everything. He said that when he grows up he wants to be the guardian of the sea.
His mother said that Elier is traumatized. “He cannot strop talking about the sounds of the storm,” she said, laughing nervously, “I think he has PTSD.” When we asked Eliel to describe what he heard he recreated the sounds. “It screamed, it howled, it barked, it hollered, it was like phantasms screaming and flying overhead.”
At one point he remembers feeling that the house was moving from the 100 mile per hour winds. The fourth grader said he had a bad feeling that the house was going to be swallowed by the sea or the storm, or both. If the eye of the storm had come through Maunabo, the boy explained, referring to the town next to Patillas, the sea would have been inside the house. “It wouldn’t been really bad.”
As it turned out, the eye of the massive storm entered two towns over, in Yabucoa. In the middle of the night as gusts of wind and rain pounded the island, Elier recounts helping his dad empty water from the living room which had been inundated. His mother, pregnant with her third child, gave birth to a baby girl two days after the storm. She was one month early. The baby is a beauty and healthy.
For Elier’s 9th birthday, three weeks after the storm, he said he saved $60 dollars in cash from his grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and family friends. He saved enough to buy himself a gold watch he’d been wanting. So what its faux gold? He wears the watch everywhere– even to sleep his mom says.
Words: Sandra Guzmán
Photos: Sandra Guzmán & Rebecca Gitana Torres