Emotional reunions after first plane to NYC from Puerto Rico arrives

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Emotional reunions after first plane to NYC from Puerto Rico arrives
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N.J. Burkett speaks to families at JFK International Airport.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The first wave of people leaving the hurricane devastated island of Puerto Rico arrived Monday night at JFK Airport in New York.

After five days and nights, the wait was finally over. Debra and John Roman embraced their son and his fiancee.

Sarita Mongelli reunited with her elderly parents.

"I can't describe the feeling after five days of not talking to them," Mongelli said. "I can't tell you, he's 86 and my mom is 82, and my aunt, his sister, my uncle, I can't tell you what they've gone through, horrible, horrible conditions and at this age it's very hard for them."

Joe Roman said the ordeal was unimaginable.

"How did you feel?" Eyewitness News Reporter N.J. Burkett asked.

"I just felt like I left a country that went through World War III," Joe said.

That was not the plan. Joe took his girlfriend to Puerto Rico to get engaged, and he proposed on the beach under a brilliant Caribbean sky.

Unable to escape the approaching storm, they rode it out. Then spent days at the San Juan Airport before joining 200 others on Delta 302, the first direct flight to New York.

"We saw trees falling down, we saw billboards in the middle of the street, there's families sleeping on the highways in their cars, their cars are breaking down, there's just so much destruction everywhere," said Jenny Delpin, a tourist. "I never wanted to shower so bad in my life, I just want to go home, I didn't think it was possible, just being here today, thank God we actually made it to New York."

Passengers described the damage in almost apocalyptic terms. Aida Ramos-Diaz left the island to stay with her children in New York.

"I'm really getting emotional, the worst thing of all was not to be in contact with my family, my children, right then when I saw destruction," Ramos-Diaz said. "If you have ever been to Puerto Rico, you will cry when you see how it looks."

Mongelli says her parents are determined to return to Puerto Rico, but not anytime soon.

"Whatever's left of their life right now, they need to be safe with their children not alone," Mongelli said. "We can't ask for more, we got them home, I'm taking them home with me now."