A vigil was held in Bridgeport Thursday — one year after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
The event was a small, solemn gathering held in memory of those who died.
Ilanys Hernandez, who now lives in Bridgeport, was born in Barceloneta, Puerto Rico. She spoke to the crowd and struggled through tears. It brought back everything she went through in the storm’s aftermath when she worried about loved ones back home.
“Seeing where I grew up not looking the same and thinking if everyone was okay when I couldn’t know if they were or they weren’t,” Hernandez said.
But, she was proud that she shared her thoughts. It made her hopeful for the future.
“Seeing all the people getting together gives me hope that Puerto Rico can get up stronger,” Hernandez said.
The vigil – and a related event held in Hartford were organized so people could share their sadness with one another. That’s not the only emotion people went through – at times, they were also angry. The vigil-goers repeatedly chanted “4,645” to make a statement about how they thought Puerto Ricans were treated in the aftermath.
It’s a reference to a Harvard University estimate of how many “additional deaths” occurred as a result of the storm’s impact.
Antonio Torres, one of the organizers of the vigil, said fewer people would’ve died if the U.S. government had a better response.
“If the Puerto Rican people don’t realize that the American federal government does not care about them and does not care about their well-being -- if this doesn’t show them that then I don’t know what else will,” Torres said.
Torres wants Puerto Ricans living on the mainland to know they can do something about the government’s response. He said if they were to vote in November and vote for politicians that represent their interests, that’d change the equation.