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A letter from Loretta Collins Klobah

Last month we wrote an open letter of support to everyone affected by Irma and Maria. We were very pleased to receive this handwritten letter from Loretta Collins Klobah sent by courier from Puerto Rico.

We are still without electricity and water… It looks as if the entire island has been bombed. Every street has extraordinary damage and debris.

A few of the impressive sights so far:

  1. Two ancient silk cotton trees with trunks about 20x35 feet wide fell, completely blocking a six-lane highway. Even fallen, the trees were as tall as a 3-story building.

  2. At the moment the storm was transitioning from the tropical storm to the hurricane, I saw from my louvered bedroom window an enormous, heavy, old iguana, probably measuring 5 or 6 feet from nose to tail. He was sitting at a top corner of my vine-covered chain-link fence, bending down the wire with his weight. His huge armour-plated face was covered with rain and pointing into the storm. Spikes ridged his back and black-striped tail. His orange haunches showed his age. In his heavy-lidded green eyes – what attitude? I felt like I was in the cabin of a ship, and he was both captain and ship’s figurehead – an ancient dragon taking us into the hard seas of the hurricane.

  3. The US National Guardsmen and Puerto Rican police distributing shoe boxes of food at a road block in Barrio, Obrero, Santurce. All the side streets where residents live were deeply flooded out. The intersection of the road block was on high ground – dry. The National Guardsmen had parked four heavily armoured all-terrain vehicles with camouflage paint and bullet shields at the intersection. The rifle-armed guardsmen were waiting for mainly women, most carrying children, to wade through the dirty flood water to arrive to them in order to receive the small box of donated food items. The guardsmen didn’t drive their high all-terrain vehicles through the stagnant flood waters to deliver the food door-to-door to the women still living in their flooded homes. Barrio Obrero is an area of Santuce where my poem “La Madonna Urbana” is set in Twelve-Foot Neon Woman.

  4. My university was also damaged. Three buildings lost their roofs. Most trees are down, as well as electricity poles and street lamps. It may not re-open for some time.

  5. Most businesses are still closed. We haven’t been able to get drinking water for two weeks. Food is being rationed by the four open stores, where most shelves are emptying. People are joking that we should have the narco-traffickers of drugs handle the distribution of gasoline and food. It has, of course, been a difficult hurricane season for our sister islands in the Caribbean. I have witnessed a strong solidarity among the writers, nonethyeless. #One Caribbean.

What an old-fashioned thing to do! Write a letter by hand, not even by typewriter. We are in good cheer here…

(See the original letter on Facebook)

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