HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) – One year ago this Thursday, Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico.
Nearly the entire population, more than 3 million American citizens, were without electricity for months.
Thousands fled the island, many relocating to western Massachusetts.

The community came together Tuesday at the Kelly Elementary School in Holyoke to discuss the reconstruction process of the island.
Local leaders and organizations got together to discuss what else can be done to help those back on the island.

Hurricane Maria made landfall almost one year ago, but the devastation can still be felt. “It was very sad and traumatizing. You experience things you never thought would happen,” said Malu Blazquez.

Blazquez lives in Puerto Rico and she was there when the hurricane hit.

“It was very very hard. No electricity, no gasoline, fuel. I personally was on line three four hours to get gas for generators,” Blazquez added.

Blazquez is part of the group, Reimagina Puerto Rico.

She said the group has produced reports on ways to better the island during the reconstruction process.

For example:

“To develop resilient community center. Center that provides educational service, resilient like backup electricity water, fridges all these services needed when Hurricane Maria hit. So many people were without power, important to connect medicine, important to have this so they’re well prepared for another disaster.”

The group is doing a listening tour by making stops in cities that have a huge Puerto Rican population.

They’ve teamed up with local leaders and organizations to get their input.

“Today’s session focusing on Puerto Ricans. They left the island for variety of reasons living in mainlands,” said Mayor Alex Morse.

Mayor Morse said he is proud of the people of his city coming together to help those displaced by the hurricane..

But acknowledges more work needs to be done.

“There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. We’re just coming to grip with death toll of 3,000 people. Federal government should help with debt relief and give back to people who live there,” Morse added.

Boston and Hartford are also stops on this listening tour.

Recurso: Western Mass News