‘This is life-saving': Family reunites at O'Hare after hurricane leaves millions helpless

Moments of jubilation met anticipation Saturday at O’Hare International Airport.

Joel Rodriguez was waiting for his mother and father to step off a United Airlines flight from Puerto Rico along with his cousin, Carmen Figueroa, and other family.

Rodriguez said his parents called him Saturday morning while at the airport in San Juan, looking to leave the place they call home.

It was the first time he’d heard their voices in days.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle. I know a lot of families that I’m in a relationship with, they’re dying to just hear from them,” Rodriguez said, as he waited at the airports baggage claim just before 7 p.m.

It was 11 days ago that Hurricane Maria blew through Puerto Rico, knocking out power to everyone in its path. It left millions without reliable food and water, and Rodriguez’s father uncertain if he would be able to get the crucial dialysis needed to keep him alive.

“It’s been hard. They’ve been through a tough time,” Figueroa said. “(He) had to stand in line to get dialysis.”

Rodriguez called the trip “life-saving.”
“It’s imperative that he has dialysis. His kidneys are working at a very low percentage,” Rodriguez said of his father.

And that’s why the moment meant so much.

As Rodriguez’s parents emerged through a security checkpoint, he ran to greet them with hugs and kisses.

They were seconds of pure jubilation.

Figueroa cried. She was happy to see her aunt and uncle, even as her own parents stayed behind in Puerto Rico until she could get them on a flight, as well.

She was optimistic.

“It’s killing me because I can’t be there to help them and do anything for them; that’s what hurting the most, that I’m not able to be there with my parents to stand in line for 5 hours and get gas and ice,” Figueroa said.

“That’s what’s hurting us the most.”