By Mr. Robert Timmons (IMCOM)November 16, 2017
For one Soldier at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School the choice to bring her nephews to South Carolina was easy to make after Hurricane Maria hit St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands Sept. 16.
Staff Sgt. Toya Alexander-Cruz, an instructor at the school said "it was a huge decision to make" bringing her nephews DeVante and DeMarcus Carty to live with her for a while but "I said, 'You know what? Sure" she'd take them. The boys started school Oct. 2.
When the storm hit she was "nervous" because she knew from past experience that a Category 5 hurricane would "be very destructive."
Alexander-Cruz said she was "very nervous" and "couldn't function at work, I couldn't focus at work" because she worried about her Family back home. "My cohorts would console me and see if I was ok. No matter what they'd do or say, I just couldn't focus. I was terrified. I lived through a Cat. 3 and Cat. 5" is even worse.
Her grandmother lost her home, her mother's home had water damage, and a sister lost her entire apartment. It has been a "struggle" for them, but no one lost their life and the Family "still has each other."
The boys were at home when the hurricane hit, DeVante said. The Family was huddled in the living room when their house started flooding.
"We went into our bedrooms and saw that the water was starting to come through the windows," he said. They tried to mop up the water and using towels to keep get up the water, but the storm was too powerful.
According to FEMA.gov website, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved 3,413 individual assistance applications and $3,785, 727.56 for individual and household programs throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands as of Nov. 14. The National Guard also deployed 1,200 Service members to the islands to help disaster relief as well.
The storm also forced schools to close so they didn't know when the children would go back to class leading them to ask Alexander-Cruz to temporarily take care of the boys and enroll them in school. DeVante, 14 years old, is enrolled in Richland Northeast, while DeMarcus, 8, is at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School on post.
He added going to the school here is good, and that "most of the people are good to me" but "I miss my Family, my school and my friends."
Alexander-Cruz's everyday life became more difficult as she now had four children to take care of instead of two -- plus she had to get documents and paperwork to register on post because they are not her dependents.
"I have two children and two nephews, so it has been a huge adjustment to having four kids," she said. "It's challenging."