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Retired nurse returns from volunteering with Red Cross in Puerto Rico

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Posted at 4:10 PM, Jan 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-27 17:17:45-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.  — Counting her blessings back home, a Red Cross volunteer has returned from Puerto Rico.

Maria Gubnitsky is sharing the sights that rocked her and the experiences that felt so rewarding.

It was her first time experiencing earthquakes and tremors. She said she had an app that alerted her when a quake was starting and sometimes she'd be alerted up to eight times a day.

"The code word was precaucion, caution. We would get under tables or go outside," said Gubnitsky.

Gubnitsky flew out of the airport in Fort Lauderdale two weeks ago, bound for Puerto Rico to serve as a Red Cross coordinator in the hardest hit areas.

"The homes are still being destroyed, people are forming tent communities within their neighborhoods," said Gubnitsky.

Gubnitsky says she helped people replace medications lost in the destruction. She saw some people run electricity to their tents to keep insulin refrigerated.

"Usually, you have a natural disaster like a hurricane that leaves a lot of destruction in its wake, but it moves on and the recovery begins. With this earthquake, the variable of the unknown continues," Gubnitsky said.

Gubnitsky witnessed the strength of Puerto Ricans, especially she said, the local Red Cross volunteers.

"I was in awe of them. There they were, they have lost so much, some homes totally destroyed and they were still out there supporting the community," Gubnitsky added.

Gubnitsky said the experience was heartbreaking, but so rewarding. Gubnitsky is grateful her family supported and encouraged her to volunteer.

"I'm very happy and grateful to be home and on steady ground. I missed my family, but my mind and my heart is with them. I left a little piece of me in Puerto Rico," she said.

The Red Cross is in need of volunteers. To learn if you have any expertise that can be of service, click here.