'My heart is broken': Mainer recounts trip to Puerto Rico

Maine woman back from mission to Puerto Rico

NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- She’s been home for over 2 weeks but every time she closes her eyes, Natalie Pauwels is back in Puerto Rico.

"You don’t get used to the fact that the island of enchantment is no longer." Pauwels said.

Pauwels and her sister jumped on the first plane they could to bring her family supplies after Hurricane Maria. Nothing could have prepared them for what they would see on the island. "Pictures do absolutely no justice," Pauwels said. "It looks like a place that had a bomb dropped on it."

Dozens of pictures and videos on her phone show people waiting in line for gas, homes and entire areas destroyed. "People would be in line for hours just for gas and clean water," Pauwels said. "All you see on the side of the road are people's roofs and debris."

Trees and power lines were everywhere you looked. "This is why it’s going to take 6 months to restore power to this island," Pauwels said. "Because they are like balls crinkled up on the side of the road like yarn."

It was a harsh reality – but it was her aunts home where things really sunk in. She and her sister spent days clearing tree’s and trash from her family’s yard -- trying to bring back some sense of normalcy.

"When you’re on a mission of love you can do anything, anything," Pauwels said. "We worked so hard, we sweat so hard… I literally felt like a super hero."

Her aunts home looks like night and day after their cleanup, but the rest of the island still has a long way to go. Pauwels worries things will never be the same.

"It’s almost like people don’t care anymore," Pauwels said. "I’s like it was a natural disaster that happened and they are just moving on to the next one."

She hopes her experience inspires others to get out and help – because if she had to do it all again she would

"We’re not heroes," Pauwels said. "That’s compassion, that’s what you do for people that you love." 

 

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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