NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There were tears of joy Monday night, as people trapped by Hurricane Maria finally began returning from Puerto Rico.
From the feeling of hopelessness to the emotional embrace of loved ones at home, it’s been days since 24-year-old Joseph Romano and his fiancee Jenny had a meal or even more than a couple hours of sleep after Maria left them stranded.
“Oh my God, I was just traumatized,” Jenny told CBS2’s Jessica Layton after the couple arrived at JFK Airport on the first flight from San Juan.
Forced to sleep on the sidewalk outside a hotel they say was kicking out tourists, the Long Island couple that got engaged while in Puerto Rico finally got one of the few flights leaving the island.
“There was such devastation,” New Yorker Aida Ramos-Diaz said. “If you’ve ever been to Puerto Rico, you will cry when you see how it looks.”
Baggage claim was filled with people hugging and holding loved ones they haven’t been able to reach since the hurricane hit last week.
“I can’t describe the feeling after five days not talking to them, he’s 86, my mom is 82,” Sarita Mongelli of Hopewell Junction, New York said.
Satellite photos comparing July to now show how dire and dark the island currently is.
85 percent of power lines were knocked out, and help has been painfully slow to arrive.
“Where is the army? We are fed up,” one woman told CBS News. “This is going to be a riot here.”
With homes crushed, streets flooded, and nowhere else to go, more than 1,000 people slept in the airport trying to get out.
The desperation Joseph and Jenny saw as they prayed for their plane to take off is something the young couple said they’d never forget.
“It’s 105 degrees and you got these poor babies sleeping on the flood,” Joseph said. “Nobody handing out food, water, checking up on them.”
“I didn’t think it was possible to be here today,” Jenny tearfully said. “Thank God we made it to New York.”