Latin Times Magazine 1st Quarter 2018 - Page 15

Heros for Puerto Rico Liza (Rivera-Russe) Fleming “Until then, I prayed… I prayed ALL the time and of course, I joined this amazing group of people locally and statewide to start doing what we needed to do from the distance: we all had to step up for Puerto Rico!“ by: Jolie Gonzalez-Padilla that included all Puerto Ricans and many Latinos in Tampa Bay, Central and South Florida. Our desire to do something for our Island was so big and strong, we tapped every single connection we had to create a movement that out of the sudden became so big we were getting calls from other states. It was amazing to see how friends from high school and college here, in Texas, ev- erywhere in the US, got together to make it happen. The list is long, but they all deserve as much or more credit. As it was allud- Jolie: Take us back to the days leading up to September 20th, ed in our social media posts, #enladiásporanadiesequita. 2017 as Hurricane Maria made its way toward the Island of Puerto Rico. - how did you feel, and what went through your Jolie: Tell us about the Tampa team, the people and organiza- mind during those hours when the storm was ravaging the tions behind the efforts; I know it was a big team of people that jumped in immediately to help; who would you say played a ma- island? Liza: That was a tough time. I knew we were lucky enough jor part in the relief efforts. having a much lower impact from Irma. I was monitoring the Liza: EVERYONE! There was no small task. Richard Trela and news - - thank God for Ada Monzón, a meteorologist from Brenda Irizarry not only jumped in to lead the efforts, but they Puerto Rico, who did a phenomenal job keeping us all in- allowed us to use their 25K sf warehouse to house all donations. formed regarding Maria’s trajectory. And the more I listened Retired Colonel Evelio Otero co-led the efforts and allowed us to to her reports, the more I realized the inevitable would hap- use the Course of Action umbrella as our non-profit organization. pen. I felt powerless because I couldn’t do anything for my His military expertise along with other key players in this arena, family and friends. At the time, my dad had gone through sur- such as Walter González, Kelvin del Valle, Luis Oliva and Andy gery and I was highly concerned for my parents not being able Serrano, contributed greatly to ensure we had resources and to fully prepare for what was coming. Well, and it happened… the right logistics in place for the operation. But it was not only about military resources and logistics… we needed key players Jolie: Tell us about September 21st, 2017 for you…. Were you in house to ensure all the operation was running as smooth as it could given the uncertain scenarios of the circumstances… able to reach your family? Liza: It was a long, long week not knowing or hearing from them. Thankfully, I had a sister in the metropolitan area that Linda Pérez, Antonio Soler, Edwin Santana, Luis