Today was an emotional day for me. One year ago today, Hurricane Maria changed my life. I spent a lot of the day looking at the many posts from my fellow classmates about the hurricane- some wrote about the destruction it caused and some wrote about the beauty of Dominica before the storm. Regardless, every post filled me with a mixture of anger and sadness.
I have thought about writing this post for a few months now, but to be honest I could not bring myself to sit and write about it until now. For the past year, I have been so consumed with studying that I have not dealt with my grief, nor my growth since the whole ordeal. Maybe I have tried to suppress it.
My first blog post ever was my day-to-day synopsis of my experience during and after the storm up until we were evacuated safely. At that time, writing about what was happening was the only way I would remember every detail of those days. That post turned into this blog, YB to MD, and it has become an escape for me since. A place where I can be honest and open.
So I’ll be real with you, Hurricane Maria brought a lot of darkness into my life. It has brought a lot of anger, guilt, and fear. The crazy part is, it wasn’t the hurricane itself or even the days after that were hard. It was the emotional train that hit me when I finally got home. It was the upheaval of my life that still hasn’t settled. It was the fact that with all the emotion, I had to continue to move forward with my studies and career without looking back.
The 16 months I lived in Dominica, I lived in the same apartment with the most wonderful host family: Kirt and Trifina Langlais and their three beautiful daughters. I saw them almost every single day and they allowed me to be a part of their family. They took care of me and supported me. Hurricane Maria hit and I swear I had never seen strength comparable to them. The morning after the storm, Trifina, Kirt and the girls were up and repairing their home. They cleaned their empty apartments from the damage and brought people whose homes were destroyed to live with them. One of the days following the storm, I remember Trifina saying something about the little food they had left and how they prioritized the kids being fed. I just remember Trifina always saying “we will get through this and we will rebuild”- and she said it with such faith and confidence.
The day we were going to be evacuated was a mixture of feeling relieved to go home and feeling an immense amount of guilt. Trifina and Kirt woke up early that morning to see us off and take us to the school. Saying goodbye to Trifina was so hard for me, I didn’t know if I would ever see her again. I couldn’t believe we had to leave them behind while we went back to the comforts and conveniences of America. When we got to the boat, a local man was yelling at us “you cannot leave! Its not fair that you get to leave, it is not right to leave these people like this!”. I cried, and I still do thinking about it. I wish everyday I could do more for Kirt and Trifina and the community in Dominica.
I still talk to Trifina often and her daughters. I am so thankful to have them in my life. Trifina truly taught me the meaning of strength and hope. From the darkness that Maria brought, light followed. Trifina shared the wonderful news with me that her two oldest daughters were accepted into a university in New York and they have both moved to the US to continue their education. They are the definition of resilience.
In lieu of what has come from this experience, good and bad, today’s significance is more than just another day of studying to become a physician or the anniversary of a natural disaster. Remembering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria realigns my career goals and my personal values. I always wanted to go into medicine to help people, but I realize now that being a doctor is only a part of my end goal. I want to be the best person I can be. Becoming a doctor is the career path I have chosen, but helping others is more than a career choice. It’s a decision I have to make everyday.
Check out my daily blog about Hurricane Maria