PUERTO RICO — A year ago, Hurricane Maria tore into Puerto Rico, obliterating power grids, decimating farms, flattening homes and wrecking the local economy.
Maria's full destructive scale was not clear in the months after landfall, and the storm was followed by a slow, frustrating and deadly recovery. Three months afterward, only a third of Puerto Rican households had received tarps for their damaged homes. Power was still not restored for many across the island by the six-month mark.
Maria came on the heels of Hurricane Irma -- sister-storms that would forever change the fate of the island.
Nothing has been the same for residents since. Puerto Rico’s budget crisis had resulted in the closing of over 200 schools across the island.
“Right after Maria, we had a lot of students who lost everything. We also have a lot of teachers who lost everything,” said the Association of Teachers Secretary General.
“It’s been a year of challenges” San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.
“When people ask me if I’m satisfied with what I did, I say ‘no.’ If you’re satisfied in a humanitarian crisis where thousands of people died, then you don’t have any connection to reality,” she said.
Puerto Rico's governor raised the island's official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 after an independent study found that the number of people who succumbed in the desperate, sweltering months after the storm had been severely undercounted.
Following the increase in the death toll, President Donald Trump rejected the number, claiming without citing evidence that “3,000 people did not die.”
One year later, Puerto Ricans and those refusing to turn their backs on the island are working to recover and rebuild the damage done by the monster storm.
Tourists have made it a point to make Puerto Rico a destination. "When asked why did they come to Puerto Rico, they said they wanted to help, and the best way that they thought they could help was to come here, spending their money as tourists and seeing how the progress was going," said Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello
He is proud that Puerto Ricans are working to rebuild tourism, but he also believes what the island really needs is a fairer focus from the federal government.
“It’s my view that we’ve been treated as second-class citizens and its unfortunate that over 3 million citizens that live on the island get treated differently because we live in a colonial territory of the U.S. as opposed to a full-fledged state."
New York officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez speak on legislation meant to hold the president accountable.