After more than two days of silence, some in the suburbs are starting to hear from loved ones in Puerto Rico while many others wait with agonizing anxiety.
Ivelisse Robles Lynch of Cary got word Friday afternoon that her parents, brother and 96-year-old grandmother are OK in the aftermath of the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Her brother-in-law, who lives in the San Juan area, was able to make his way to her parents' hometown to the west after the National Guard began clearing roads, she said.
"I am thrilled," she said shortly after receiving a photo of her parents via text message. "Thank God."
The hurricane made landfall early Wednesday and caused widespread communication and power outage on the island. A few people, like her brother-in-law, were able to get sporadic cellular service and keep their cellphones charged with generators, she said.
Luis Ramos of Carol Stream also got good news Friday in a call from his niece in Florida, who said Ramos' sister phoned to say she and her mother are fine in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico.
"The call was cut off so we do not have additional details about the area or other family members," Ramos said, "but it is an incredible relief to hear they are well."
His cousin was among those who were able to send blips Thursday, posting on Facebook that he was OK, Ramos added.
Many others are still waiting for a response to countless texts and phone calls. Marilia Gutierrez, an interpreter for Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59, has been checking social media incessantly and listening to the radiolike app Zello, where people exchange any information they have about the island.
"I've no words to describe the pain and the suffering and the not knowing," said Gutierrez, of Chicago.
The last communication was a text early Wednesday from her sister, who lives in Juncos, on the eastern part of the island. Her mother lives in a nursing home in Cerro Las Mesas in the area of Mayaguez.
"Where is everyone that I know?" Gutierrez said. "Some friends are posting on Facebook, yes, but my family ... I have not heard from anyone. Absolutely nothing. And I have tried calling and calling. That silence, it's just so excruciating."
Stephanie Galloza of Elgin also hasn't heard from loved ones -- her father, stepmother, 10-year-old brother, 10 aunts and uncles, and more than 20 cousins are in Puerto Rico. "There is no communication," she said. "We thought that by the third day we would have heard something ... but no."
Meanwhile, Galloza started an effort to gather supplies for the island. She and others, including Nueva Generacion Domino Club of Elgin, have amassed 1,500 bottles water, plus canned goods, batteries, baby formula and more, she said. She's petitioning a shipping company in Chicago to put aside a container to ship the goods and hopes to get an answer Monday, she said.
"Collecting the donations is the simple part," Galloza said. "The hard part is the difficulty to get it there."
William Cortes, who owns the Puerto Rican restaurant Delicia Tropical Cafe in Elgin, has no plans to wait. He bought a generator and plane ticket for Wednesday -- the earliest he could find a seat, he said -- to deliver it to his siblings in Puerto Rico.
"I need to do something," he said. "They need help."