Danvers residents, stranded in Puerto Rico by Maria, still seeking flight home
A Danvers couple taken by surprise when Hurricane Maria bore down on Puerto Rico is still trying to get home, days after the storm devastated the island, leaving much of it without power, fuel, or clean water.
Lisa Alviti, 55, and her boyfriend, Chris Clark, 56, said by phone that experiencing the Category 4 storm’s impact and aftermath had been “humbling” and had given them an appreciation of “the things that we take for granted.”
“It makes you realize how fortunate we are to have what we have and be able to bounce back,” Clark said.
Clark was awed by “the enormous force of nature in full fury,” he said, and for a time the storm was “really scary, with the noises and the crazy stuff that was going on.”
“The whole hotel was rocking back and forth, and it was . . . creaking and moaning,” he said. But ultimately the wind and rain were “the easy part, because we knew it was going to end.”
When the weather calmed, they witnessed Maria’s full devastation.
“It’s totaled,” Alviti said of the US territory. “The lines are down; the street lights are down in the middle of the street. You see the police on the highways with the highway crews. With chain saws, they have to move the trees off the streets. The fuel trucks can’t get through. . . . It’s just a mess.”
Alviti and Clark said they bought their tickets to Puerto Rico about six months ago, long before they could have anticipated the tempest. When they flew south on Sept. 17, they knew there was storm activity in the Caribbean, they said, but it wasn’t yet clear how fierce Maria would be, or that it would make landfall near them.
They awoke early on Monday for a walk on the beach, where they bumped into a a yoga instructor who told them the storm’s classification had gone from Category 1 to Category 3 overnight, and it was headed for the island, Clark said.
Maria later made landfall in Puerto Rico on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm.
After speaking to the yoga instructor, Alviti and Clark were on the phone by 7 a.m. Monday, seeking a flight out. They were put on a Tuesday flight, Alviti said, but then bumped in an apparent error by the airline.
“The managers were very apologetic,” Alviti said, “but I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t go to the people they gave our seats to and apologize to them instead.”
By Saturday, the couple had been assigned seats on about five flights by three airlines, they said, but then told the flights were canceled, the seats were no longer available, or the airport was inaccessible because of flooding.
On Saturday afternoon, they were hoping to leave on an 11 a.m. Sunday flight — provided that it, too, wasn’t canceled, oversold, or impossible to reach.
The couple had planned to spend their week on the island in a waterfront condominium owned by Alviti’s employer, a Beverly marketing firm, in Palmas del Mar — on the southeastern coast of the island, where the hurricane made landfall.
Alviti had wanted to visit Puerto Rico and make use of the condo for a while, she said, and decided to make the trip in September to celebrate her birthday.
As the storm approached, they evacuated Palmas del Mar and wound up in a hotel in Bayamón, then another in the Miramar neighborhood of San Juan, Alviti said.
“The water has remained on in the hotel and you can use the bathroom, and we are very lucky to have that, because most residents do not,” she said.
Alviti answered her cellphone on Saturday from a convenience store where she was buying drinking water, she said, adding that small shops were allowing customers inside one or two at a time, because they feared looting.
“There’s no refrigeration, and from talking with the general managers at the hotels, it’s going to probably get a lot worse for them before things get better,” she said. “They’ve never seen a storm come through here like Maria.”
Her sympathies are with the people of Puerto Rico, she said, who will feel the effects of the storm long after she is safely back in Danvers.
“I just wish I could do something for them,” she said. “We have a place to go. Eventually I will get home. These people, they don’t have anywhere to go.”
Despite the hardships of their trip, Alviti and Clark said they remain optimistic.
“What else can you do?” Alviti asked. “That’s how I live my life, anyhow. Every day, I wake up in the morning, and I open my eyes and I say, ‘Life is