Rapid City High School teacher's family escapes Puerto Rico devastation

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Rapid City High School teacher Ryan Brewer cupped his hands around a steaming mug of Puerto Rican coffee and looked at the rain falling outside of his Rapid City home.

A rainy Wednesday afternoon that would bring a gloomy visage to many, had no effect on Brewer. His wife Ivelisse and three children Alihna, Milehna, and Luca made it to Rapid City from their home in Humacao, Puerto Rico.


After hurricane Maria touched down in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, the U.S. territory’s public infrastructure and power grid went black. Humacao, which lies on the west coast of the territory, was one of the first Puerto Rican cities to be hit.

“We still don’t have power back home,” Ivelisse said. It had been just over 40 days since the Maria hit.

When the hurricane made landfall, the family was forced to abandon their flooded home, and trek to Ivelisse’s mother’s house. From there, she could send text messages to her husband.

Once he knew his family was safe, Ryan reached out to the community for help. He and his family received donations from Rapid City High School teachers, students, and others.

“Individual people helped give on Facebook, and I got random donations in my bank account,” Ryan said.

Ivelisse and the kids also received care packages in the mail from Rapid City, filled with flashlights, batteries, and beef jerky – a natural disaster delicacy. “I got donations in the mail,” she said. “Like, who are these people?”

After enough cash donations, Ryan flew his family back to Rapid City.

Now, the family is expressing their gratitude to the Rapid City community for their help and support.

“We couldn't thank the people we know on Facebook, but more so here in Rapid City - how much everyone has given and continues to want to give,” Ryan said.

According to Ryan, settling into their new life has been a whirlwind.

“We haven't had much time to breathe ... taking care of the kids, getting a new car, and trying to get [her] a new job, getting the kids into school, and for me adjusting having the family in my home,” Ryan said.

When asked about their home in Puerto Rico and the future of the territory, the Brewers expressed hope and optimism.

“They know how to rebuild, and the culture there is so strong,” said Ryan. “I encourage every person in Rapid City to go visit,” he said.

Though Ivelisse misses Humacao, she said Rapid City’s humble warmth was beginning to grow on the family.

“I feel like I can start loving it. Little by little.”


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