A young Levittown couple arrived at Kennedy Airport Monday with other passengers on a flight from storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, newly engaged, thankful to be home and with a harrowing tale to tell.
“Just to get out of there is a relief,” said Joseph Roman, 24, who proposed to his fiance, Jenny Delpin, 21, in Puerto Rico before the island took a direct hit from Hurricane Maria Sept. 20.
“It’s been just complete chaos,” Roman said Monday after the couple got off a flight from San Juan. Others on the flight described something out of a war zone on the ground in the island commonwealth.
“It looks like a scene from a bombing,” said Aida Ramos Diaz, 70, who lives in the town of Patillas and will stay for now with a son who lives in the Bronx.
Diaz was among countless others have fled their homes in Puerto Rico since the storm to temporarily stay with relatives in the New York area.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday more than 50 city first responders and emergency management personnel have traveled to San Juan to help with recovery efforts. He said it’s too early to tell how many Puerto Ricans fled the island — where electricity, food and water are in dangerously short supply — to live with relatives in the city.
“There is no way yet to know what the number may be,” de Blasio said, “but I think that it’s right to assume that there will be a substantial number of Puerto Rican families coming here.”
In an interview on WCBS Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state’s response to the storm was ongoing.
“We will do collections statewide and distribution and there’s a list of exactly what the people of Puerto Rico need,” Cuomo said. “ But . . . we need the federal government to step up and act. They are Americans and they should be treated like Americans.
Roman and Delpin saw what’s needed close-up.
A trip that began with such promise Sept. 15 turned into something else five days later when Maria made landfall the day they were set to fly back to New York. What followed, the couple said, were anxious nights spent first in their hotel lobby and later the street as the Puerto Rican capitol lay in ruins around them.
After checking out from a Sheraton hotel in San Juan, they learned their flight was canceled Sept. 20, it was called off at least half a dozen times, they said. With no place to go, the couple said they returned to the Sheraton only to be told there were no rooms. Roman and Delpin said they joined others and slept in the hotel lobby for two nights until a hotel employee kicked them out. Then, the couple said they slept outside the hotel because they felt it was safer.
Officials with the hotel chain did not return calls for comment.
Delpin said she had other immediate needs on her mind.
“I never wanted a shower so badly in my life.”
With Laura Figueroa and Michael Gormley