It’s about 5 a.m. The island is still dark, but you can hear the waves crashing onto the shore and the harmonized song of the native coqui frogs. You roll yourself out of bed, brush the dirt off your boots and get ready. It’s time to get to work.
You make your way to the breakfast table to stock up on the protein and nutrients you will need to complete the tough, manual tasks ahead of you.
This is the life a DTE Energy lineman who has chosen to join the mission to power Puerto Rico.
For them, it doesn’t matter which day of the week it is because they are all the same. You tie up your boots, grab your hard hat and do what needs to be done to turn the lights back on for the people of Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
Each day reminds you that you are not home. Finding pigs, roosters and stray dogs roaming the streets is a normal occurrence. Your work boots are covered in red clay and your fire retardant clothes are drenched in sweat under the tropical sun. It is hot, humid and you pray for another rain shower to pass through, bringing a moment of relief.
Reaching job sites can be difficult. Roads are washed out, some crumbling along the sides. Getting to the next pole can mean climbing up a mountain, wading through a river or pushing back through the unforgiving, lush vegetation of the jungle. In the middle of the day, you test your strength as you and your crew attempt to manually twist a 7,200 pound cement pole into its place along the mountainside.
It’s hard, demanding work and the days are long. But, throughout your grueling shifts, you are rewarded with the gratitude of the people nestled in the small neighborhoods along the mountains of Fajardo.
You are offered authentic Puerto Rican cuisine for lunch and accept ‘thank yous’ from people passing by. Communities come together to celebrate you, and neighbors greet you in the street to express their joy. Although many of the messages are in a language you don’t know, their emotional expression is universal. The attention you receive from residents is surreal. To you, you are simply doing your job. But, to the people of Fajardo, who spent nearly five months without power, you have changed their life.
At the end of the day, when the final fuse has been closed and the last light on that circuit turned on, you drive your truck through the busy streets of downtown Fajardo and shut the engine off at the staging area. Your sore muscles, calloused hands and tired feet have helped change a small piece of the world today. You did more than restore electricity to a neighborhood, you powered the people of Puerto Rico with hope, gratitude and a brighter tomorrow.