by Jamie Smith, Communications Manager
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Wednesday, September 20th, 2017 as the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 80 years. From the very beginning, our biggest concern was for our island team. It took us five days to verify that all of our employees were safe as many communications were down and 100% of the island was without power. Our Puerto Rico teams painted a picture of the aftermath as significant damage to buildings, power lines, and trees, along with the island being mostly without water. We would later learn that over 500 people lost their lives.
Exactly four months later, our San Juan and Borinquen teams came together with some of our leadership for a “Thank you” party. We wanted to show our appreciation for how quickly they came together and how immediately they began working to get everything up and running again. Thirty-two of our 33 Puerto Rico employees were able to attend, some meeting face-to-face for the very first time. Brunch was served, our teams were recognized, and our employees were able to kick back and get to know each other a little better over food instead of work.
After the hurricane made landfall, our teams in Puerto Rico immediately picked themselves up and powered through the initial traumatic weeks. Some even came to work the day after the landfall to start assessing the situation.
As a company, we were able to organize and execute five family relief flights, bringing crucial supplies to our employees. We faced tremendous uncertainty due to pressure from our customers. However, we were up and running before they were so we used our time and resources to operate relief flights to help others in Puerto Rico and on neighboring islands.
Still to this day, some of our island employees are without power in their homes. There are even major intersections without working lights. Luckily, gas and groceries are readily accessible and there are definite signs of regrowth throughout the island.
For Ameriflight, we are working with our landlords to rebuild our facilities and get everything back in order. Recruiting is also working hard to staff our vacant island positions. While our operations on the island are not completely back to normal, they are improving daily.
Our Puerto Rico team is as important today as they have ever been. They are an indispensable part of our organization and we are very proud to have them. To our Puerto Rico employees, thank you for going the distance to assist your fellow employees, the people of Puerto Rico, and Ameriflight. We are all happy to be in this great big family with you!