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As Carmen Delgado hammers vigorously to knock down a wall, her brother José E. Delgado shovels and mixes concrete, while their father Don José Delgado works alongside to repair their two homes in the city’s Hato Bajo neighborhood. Their homes were severely damaged when Hurricane Maria swept across Puerto Rico last September.

“This young man,” said Carmen, pointing to her dad, “taught us that we can’t just sit and wait, but that we must get started

A father with his son and daughter pose in front of the father's destroyed home

Korean War veteran José Delgado (right), with his son José E. Delgado and daughter Carmen Delgado, salvage what they can from his destroyed home before they rebuild it stronger with concrete to withstand future storms. FEMA/K.C. Wilsey Download Original

and welcome whatever comes next.”

Already equipped with the natural resiliency passed down from their father, the Delgados began their recovery effort by registering for FEMA disaster assistance after the storm.

For Don José, a proud Korean War veteran, his registration came via his granddaughter Maite in Philadelphia, who completed his online application for disaster assistance. His son, on the other hand, drove around Arecibo until he found a weak cell phone signal under a bridge, where he was able to apply for FEMA assistance using his mobile phone.

As Carmen continued hammering under the intense sun, she related how after filing their applications with FEMA, an inspector came to assess the damage. The inspector took photos and measurements of the homes and asked them to provide proof of ownership.  

Within two weeks, FEMA had asked for additional documentation, which the Delgados gathered and delivered promptly. They received their eligibility determination letters and checks for assistance from FEMA. With money in hand, they were ready to start.

Woman leaning on a leaning plywood wall removes nails while her father stands in the foreground pointing

After receiving funds from FEMA, a son and daughter start work to rebuild their father’s home damaged by Hurricane María. They are starting the process by salvaging what they can until contractors, who are in high demand, can begin building a stronger concrete home. FEMA/K.C. Wilsey Download Original

Without stopping her tough work, Carmen explained their plan to undertake repairs on the two houses, which sit side by side. Anticipating increased costs and a scarcity of supplies, they started purchasing construction materials and prepping the sites.   When their own work is complete, contractors will replace the old wooden walls and zinc roofing with robust new concrete ones, so they will be less likelyto endure a similar experience.

With a last stroke, the wall finally cedes to Carmen’s hammer and falls. The old wood will be recycled into beams for the new homes “and for whatever else we can,” said Carmen. Side by side, the damaged structures will soon see better days as the Delgado family continues their road to recovery.