GLOCESTER, R.I. (WPRI) – From his home in Rhode Island, Richard Church has tried everything in his power to get his wife, his sister-in-law, and his mother-in-law out of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
“I’m just one family, and I’m told over and over again that there’s hundreds of families, thousands of families in this situation,” Church said. “Why?”
Church’s mother-in-law, Inocencia Feliciano Perez, was born and raised on the island and lived in Yabucoa. The 88 year old barely survived Hurricane Maria.
“Because they [rescuers] saw the house demolished, they assumed she was in a shelter,” her daughter, Delia Church, of Rhode Island, explained. “We were thinking she was safe and she wasn’t safe.”
Delia Church and her sister, Luz Melendez, said their mother wasn’t rescued for weeks.
“When they found her, she was in the fetal position, just really afraid,” Church said, fighting back tears.
The sisters scrambled to Puerto Rico, planning to get their mother on the next available flight to better medical care.
When they arrived, they discovered sheer devastation.
“None of those hospitals are working,” Church said. “Even this one is running on generators.”
The sisters also quickly realized the only available return flights were unaffordable.
“I was ending up with prices between $4,000 and $5,000 to fly three people from Puerto Rico to Miami,” Richard Church said. “I just don’t have that much.”
They were stuck, but the family never lost hope. And just this week, the Humanitarian Lift Project vowed to get all three onto a plane to Florida on Saturday.
“I was like ‘thank you, thank you!'” Melendez said. “I ran outside and I was telling the whole crew ‘we’re leaving!'”