My Puerto Rican Deployment

Three crew members sit on large rocks facing camera

By: Landon Acre-Kendall

Three crew members sit on a large cut tree trunk facing camera
Three crew members in hard hats and CCMI work shirts pose together sitting on a large tree trunk with four other large trunk pieces surrounding them on the ground. Crew member on the left is wearing bright orange chaps and holding a chainsaw. Directly behind him is a large uprooted tree trunk that has been cut. Smaller downed trees are leaning over a fence, and large concrete buildings stand in the background.
Seven crew members posing in front of black car
Seven crew members wearing hard hats and yellow safety vests pose in front of a black crossover vehicle with an AmeriCorps logo that reads “Disaster Response Team.” Two crew members are holding large pole saws. Four crew members are holding chain saws. The seventh crew member stands leaning against the car with his arms crossed.
A crew member cutting a tree trunk with a chainsaw
A crew member in full Personal Protective Equipment wielding a chainsaw on a downed tree trunk.
A large uprooted tree lies on the side of the road with two crew members working near the tree top.
Two crew members work to limb and log an uprooted tree near a power line on the side of the road.

When our AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team had our first day in the field it became truly clear that Maria held nothing back on the Island. The landscape was a ruin of decimated vegetation. The trees were plucked out of the ground like weeds. There was endless debris and trash piled above my head on sidewalks and scattered about open areas. The people were living in destroyed homes without roofs, power, and water. It was an eye opening experience and it motivated us to work that much harder every day for those less fortunate than us in Puerto Rico.

One of the most enlightening and heartwarming aspects of my deployment to me was working with all the new people we met in Puerto Rico and getting to know our own teams so well. The members and supervisors from WCC were great. Elliot always surprised us with his own blend of strange and unexpected humor and at the same time was a very professional and knowledgeable Incident Commander. The people from other teams and organizations such as CCC, Team Rubicon, and Samaritan’s Purse all made lasting impressions on us as well. However, the friendships and teams created within CCMI will be everlasting. We all grew to know each other very quickly and within weeks it felt as though I’ve known these people I just met my entire life.

Another part of my trip that I will always remember will be my interactions with the local people of Puerto Rico. Though there was a tough language barrier I could always read the voices and faces of the people around me. I would see elderly couples laugh, smile, and say thanks to me and my team and it was always a touching moment. I saw a younger couple with a baby and children have sighs of relief and cries of joy and laughter as they watched a tree come falling down from a very hazardous situation on top of their house. Though I couldn’t fully understand their words I thought as though I could feel their gratitude.

My favorite part of being here was using our specialized skill set for an amazing cause. I will always remember one of the bigger trees we tackled  (see IMG_0796 for after picture). One afternoon we were canvasing for a job and we stopped to talk to some people of the community. When we mentioned that we cut trees one old man’s eyes lit up and he started going on about this giant tree blocking entrance to his entire house. He was talking about how everyday he would be forced to climb through a massive hazard tree’s wreckage just to access his house. We followed him around a couple blocks to his house as he told us bits about his life. This man once lived in the United States and was a horse jockey for several years of his life. When we arrived at his house we immediately were excited by the look of this project and how it was going to be a fun one to disassemble. We slowly took apart the massive tree piece by piece. It was one of my favorite big jobs with a very grateful and kind man. I will never forget his face or his house.

Puerto Rico was a great experience I feel as though I’ve grown a lot as a person but more importantly this trip has inspired me to grow even more beyond this trip alone and never stop growing. I want to continue to inspire and help others for the rest of my life.