Flamboyan School Coach Took a Teaching Job in Puerto Rico A Month Before Hurricane Maria

January 26, 2018 03:20 PM
by / Topics: Puerto Rico

John LaRue, former School Partnerships Coach, moved to Puerto Rico with his wife to take a teaching job a month before Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island. In this blog post originally published in the Daily Iowan, he describes the before, during, and aftermath of the hurricane.

My previous experiences with what I considered natural disasters were blizzards in Iowa, in which school got canceled for a few days, and I stayed home with my mom to make chocolate-chip cookies. We would look out the window, and see the soft, white snowflakes pile up, while the plows rumbled by. Dad would go out every few hours and shovel the sidewalks, and come back in for a cup of coffee and a nap.

Later in life, as an undergrad at the University of Iowa, chocolate-chip cookies were replaced with beers at Quinton’s, and I prayed for snow to give me a few more days to work on the assigned readings I’d been neglecting.

I was woefully unprepared for what befell me 10 years later, when my wife and I returned to her homeland of Puerto Rico. What brought me to my knees and shattered my perceptions of country and duty was but another blow to a country and people who know nothing but how to rise again and again.

The anxiety during the days before the Maria made landfall was palpable. The brush with Irma and the devastation it caused had heightened emotions in the island. It was written on the faces of people pumping gas, nervously drinking beers at la Placita, and pushing shopping carts full of batteries, canned food, and propane tanks. Attendance began to thin at my school as soon as it became apparent that Maria was not going to suddenly turn north and spare the island from the direct hit that it had avoided for the last two decades.