I never thought that my first blog post for Citrix would be fueled by 5 days of life after Hurricane María. It is mind blowing that in just three weeks’ time, we experienced two major hurricanes in the Caribbean. Hurricane Irma hit first, devastating a substantial portion of the U.S. and British Virgin Islands before going on to heavily impact Florida. Then, on Wednesday, September 20, Hurricane María pummeled the island of Puerto Rico where 46 Citrites – what Citrix employees call ourselves – live and work.

Our lives in Puerto Rico and the lives of those in the northern Caribbean are forever changed.

So, I will get right to the point. Citrites all over the world have reached out to help; it is a humbling experience to see so many living our values. I’ve included a few organizations to which you can target your donations to Hurricane María relief efforts – every penny helps.

  • NetHope is restoring critical connectivity and sharing credible information with responding aid organizations. I am planning to volunteer with NetHope in the coming weeks to help re-establish wireless communications all over Puerto Rico.
  • Save The Children: when you donate to Save the Children’s Hurricane Maria relief, you’re providing critical aid to children and families who need it most, so they can survive this crisis, recover from their losses and rebuild their lives.
  • The Salvation Army has established an Americas and Caribbean Disaster Fund. After Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria caused widespread damage across the Caribbean and southern United States, The Salvation Army provided – and continues to provide – physical, emotional, and spiritual care to survivors and relief workers. The Salvation Army remains in communities impacted by these storms and other natural disasters, supporting long-term recovery efforts and providing ongoing assistance to those in need.
  • American Red Cross is launching a multi-island relief effort with government officials and disaster partners to help people impacted by Hurricane Maria’s devastation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When donating, you can target your donation by selecting the “I Want To Support” box of your choice.
  • Unidos Por Puerto Rico has been set up by the Office of The First Lady Beatriz Roselló and local companies like AT&T and Microsoft to assist with relief efforts.
  • World Central Kitchen #ChefsForPuertoRico is moving from the backs of pickup trucks in Ponce to the massive Coliseo in San Juan. World-renowned chef José Andres and his army of chefs have one mission in mind: feed the many. With the help of donated food, support from donors, and dozens of volunteers, World Central Kitchen has now helped serve over 100,000 meals to residents of Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria. My wife and daughter volunteered with Chef Andrés and it was an incredible experience.

The following is a summary of the first five days after Hurricane María – five days that have forever changed the world I live in. In Puerto Rico, we have a long road ahead of us; this road will lead to a better community and I want to be a part of that new Puerto Rico.

Wednesday, September 20 – Day Zero

All Citrites in Puerto Rico have told similar stories of tying doors from the inside to keep them from opening and allowing the storm inside their homes, opening drains to stop the continuous flooding of our ceilings and streets, of tirelessly sweeping water from the inside of our homes, of fallen trees everywhere, of losing fences in our properties. And then, after the most dangerous part of the Hurricane passed, there are the stories of stepping outside to take in all the destruction. There was a palpable sense of sorrow, which was made all the more intense by the fact that there was no way to communicate with loved ones to find out if they were OK. Zero Day was all about the incomprehensible magnitude of it all.
Figure 1 | This is the street behind my house, flooded with 5 feet of water. There should be a fence separating my house from the street, but that fence is now gone. You can also see fallen trees all over our complex and the never ending flooding.

Figure 1 | This is the street behind my house, flooded with 5 feet of water. There should be a fence separating my house from the street, but that fence is now gone. You can also see fallen trees all over our complex and the never ending flooding.

Figure 2 | As soon as the most dangerous part of the Hurricane passed, some neighbors came together to quickly clean drains and help flooded houses; it was hard, hard work.

Thursday, September 21 – Day 1

Priority number one was checking on loved ones. I drove through what looked more like a scene out of the Walking Dead than the beautiful island that was my home. Like many other Citrites, I drove to get to my parents; when I saw them, I just broke down in tears, listening to their story. My parents spent most of the Hurricane, along with many other residents, in their building’s stairwell, scared that the sliding doors in their apartments would pop out. My parents spent an hour trying to open the front door of the apartment because the force of the pressure emitted by the Hurricane was so intense that the door wouldn’t open.

After visiting my parents, it was time to go back home, but not before making a quick pit-stop to see if my 98-year old grandmother was safe and sound. It was awesome to get back home and contribute with so many neighbors to cut fallen trees, clear drains, and help those who had lost everything due to the flooding. Listen to all the stories. Day 1 was all about ensuring the safety of our immediate families and helping in our communities.

Figure 3 | Driving out at first light to see my parents. I had to stop the car multiple times to check on water depth and clear debris to ensure my car could make the trip. Also, a picture with my 98-year old grandmother, she is alive and well and now with family in South Florida.

Figure 4 | Working with neighbors to clear roads and remove fallen trees from houses. Wearing my new uniform.

Friday, September 22 – Day 2

Reality started to sink in and priorities shifted from having a short-term strategy to securing the most basic things, like food and water. We planned our meals and used the gas-powered BBQ to cook as much food as possible to keep it from going bad. There was a feeling of total disconnection; we had no idea what was happening outside of our community. There were not functioning radio or TV stations; both made the switch to digital, but now I wonder about that. For all the benefits of digital, having some analog radio stations would be nice. I ventured out to the Citrix Puerto Rico office to check on things, had a few surprises like having internet, but the biggest surprise of all was meeting with other Citrites that had spontaneously showed up for work. What a spirit.

Figure 5 | Citrites spontaneously showed up for work the day after the Hurricane. From left to right: Emilio Fuentes, Carlos Baez, Benjamin Rivera, Ruben Delgado, Vanessa Velazquez, and Bernie Morales.

Saturday, September 23 – Day 3

I’ve never seen so many kids riding bikes, playing ping-pong, and doing all the things kids do when they are not connected to devices and digital life. It is incredible how resilient children really are; they pivot and settle into the surroundings with lighting speed (a lesson that we, as adults, should learn). Day 3 was a day of taking on the “little things” in the patio and inside the house. In my case, that “little thing” was starting to rebuild part of the fence that I lost during the storm. Another important part of Day 3 was hosting family for a big lunch cooking event. We used BBQs to cook everything in the fridge before it went bad. We hosted and it was a glorious fajita lunch – we made fajitas out of anything and everything we could cook. On Day 3, we began thinking about the future of our families and of Puerto Rico, itself. But we also enjoyed seeing our kids outside playing and meeting so many other kids from the neighborhood; we thought that, maybe, some good could come out of all of this.

One more thing: on Day 3 we got super lucky! A thin, but constant flow of water started to run from our faucet. Water is the most basic ingredient of life and in only 3 days, we understood why.

Figure 6 | Our garage became the hang-out spot for the kids in the neighborhood, most of these kids did not know each other 4 days ago.

Figure 7 | Kids from the neighborhood set up an official hang-out, check out who is sponsoring 🙂

Sunday, September 24 – Day 4

Each day since the storm hit, we’ve continued to go through the mental list of people you want to know about, whose safety you need to confirm.

My daughter wanted to visit her school and see the nuns we all love – the Nuns of Mater Salvatoris. These nuns have played an important role in my life: I studied with them from the time I was in third grade and my kids both attend that same school. We parked close by and walked to the school, as there was no car access; seeing the destruction all around us was frightening. How would we overcome so much devastation? Then I saw brigades of people working to clear the roads and I felt more hopeful.

John Burris from Citrix once said that hope is not a strategy. But John, as much as you were a role model for so many of Citrites, at this point, hope is now the only thing we’ve got.

We got to the school and as I hugged Madre Ramos, an 80-something-year old nun I have loved since I was a child, I broke down in tears. She looked at me and said, “María brings a message.  We all need to be closer to God, everything will be just fine. We need to work together in community, move forward.” Her voice was soothing and calmed my sorrow. I saw my daughter happy to see the nuns of the school she loves so dearly and suddenly hope became a strategy.

The sense of not being connected had begun to bother more and more, but there was (and is) nothing we could do about it. Day 4 was all about it being better than Day 3 and realizing that, for the time being, days will be simply measured that way.

Figure 8 | Road in front of the School Mater Salvatoris; nuns were trapped for 3 days, but brigades start to open access. The other photo documents how much of Puerto Rico looks like in the Metropolitan area; I can’t imagine what the inner part of the Island looks like.

Monday, September 25 – Day 5

Most Citrites were accounted for. Over the weekend I sent via text the following message:

Day 5 was about rebuilding, but rebuilding better. It had only been 3 business days, but it felt like a month. We showed up early in the morning not only as Citrites, but also as Puerto Ricans and as citizens of the Caribbean. As we all crammed inside the conference room, I saw faces of hope wanting to get back to work. I also sensed unease about what was to come.

Since Hurricane María first slammed into Puerto Rico, no day starts without a challenge. Last Friday we had connectivity, but that was not the case on this day. During clean-up efforts around the island, fiber of major providers was affected, leaving our office without connectivity. That meant no phones, no internet. Day 5’s morning meeting included members of our crew who are not in Puerto Rico, but due to the lack of connectivity we made a mobile call and via speaker did the best we could.

Teams were sent off to meet independently and come up with a service plan that balanced client services with personal needs and it was a “Ready, Set, Go!” attitude. I loved to see the resourcefulness of Citrites in getting back to business.

Goal #1 for the day was re-establishing internet access. I assembled a small team and we went full MacGyver. We contacted Cable & Wireless two floors down, hustled an internet hotspot and went to work. By early-afternoon we had a functioning internet hotspot that we could use to start providing services to our customers. On Day 5, we lived the Citrix single driving principle: make the world’s apps and data secure and easy to access. Anywhere. At any time. And on any device or network.

By the end of the day we were reconnecting with customers and co-workers, knowing that today was better than yesterday and that tomorrow would be better than today.

Figure 9 | Team meeting to the left, getting creative on delivering internet to our office on the right.

Figure 10 | Finally getting back to work.

Figure 11 | First Bring you Kids to Work Day in the Citrix Puerto Rico office 🙂