A hurricane changed my life at 15 years old. It taught me how young people can help solve climate change

Youth around the world consistently prove themselves vital in lifting their communities. With the Covid-19 pandemic standing right beside this year's hurricane season, let's get all hands on deck, writes Salvador Gomez Colon

Friday 17 July 2020 12:25 BST
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María was not going to pass unnoticed; it would be the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 50 years
María was not going to pass unnoticed; it would be the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 50 years (AFP/Getty)

The night of 20 September 2017 changed my life forever. It was the night that Hurricane María, Puerto Rico's uninvited and unwelcomed visitor, unleashed mayhem and destruction on the island. I was 15 years old.

María was not going to pass unnoticed; it would be the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in over 50 years. In the hours preceding its landfall, tension and uncertainty overtook me. While I've grown up with my fair share of tropical storms and hurricanes, none came close to María's sheer strength.

Throughout María's landfall, fear, anxiety, and an acute sense of vulnerability clouded my mind. The flooding of my apartment and the building's swaying forced me and my family into the building's tiny gymnasium, where we sheltered alongside three other families, including their children, newborns, and pets. Within a few minutes of arriving downstairs, I was shocked by the storm surge engulfing our street, the winds shattering our condominium door, and a palm tree slicing right through a car. I couldn't wrap my head around the chaos that María was causing. If all of this was occurring in San Juan, I could not imagine what was going on in the coastal shantytowns or hillside dwellings.

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