At 2:30 AM on Saturday, September 9, I called an employee from the San Juan Passport Agency. I was calling him from the Department of State's Operations Center, and of course, I woke him up. He informed me that his house has been without electricity since Irma passed Puerto Rico. I explained why I was calling and asked if he could help evacuate Americans from St. Maarten.
Two hours later he was at the San Juan airport, where he linked up with an employee of the Dallas Passport Agency. She had traveled overnight from Dallas to Puerto Rico for the same mission. In a short time, they were bound for St. Maarten, traveling to an island devastated by Hurricane Irma, turning the airport into nothing more than a landing strip -- no buildings, no shelter, no electricity, little security.
Their mission? Organize and assist American citizens, so that the U.S. Military could fly as many as possible off the island before Hurricane Jose reaches the island. Together, they helped evacuate over 1,200 Americans since Friday.
They are unsung heroes, and I want others to know of their dedication, their professionalism, and their bravery. I'm proud to call them my colleagues. My thoughts remain with those who are affected by these hurricanes and with those who have responded to assist.
About the Author: Ted Coley serves as Director of the Office of Children's Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. He is supporting the State Department's Hurricane Irma Task Force.
For more information:
- Go to travel.state.gov and follow @TravelGov on Twitter for information for U.S. citizens abroad affected by Hurricanes Irma and Jose.
- U.S. citizens abroad who require assistance in areas affected by Hurricane Irma, call 1-888-407-4747 (from the U.S. & Canada), +1-202-501-4444 (from Overseas). You can also email IrmaEmergencyUSC@state.gov