St. Louis man plans return trip to Puerto Rico after mission to deliver supplies

ST. LOUIS - A St. Louis man just returned from his trip to bring disaster relief to the hurricane stricken island of Puerto Rico.

It has now been a month since Hurricane Marie slammed into the island.

Roy Gillespie is fresh off two weeks on the island leading a team of about 40 volunteer truck drivers with Teamsters—in partnership with the American Red Cross—to deliver supplies to the most devastated areas.

"You're trying to move materials and feed people that haven't been fed in five days. It's like a 50-story building on fire and throwing a thimble of water on it," he said.

Gillespie said his team did whatever it took to bring supplies to the people. They trucked down torn up roads and along cliff sides, well aware of the very real threat of mudslides. When his team came across a ruined bridge, they unloaded the supplies and lifted baskets one by one up to the top of the bridge.

A common challenge was downed power lines.

"Because wires and poles were down and would tear the top of the truck off," said Gillespie. "You'd have to put (supplies) in vans and cars which meant multiple trips up and down the roads.”

Food was scarce. He grew tired of the daily meals of rice and beans but then he'd think about the people who haven't had anything to eat.

One afternoon, he arrived in a small town where little girls in party dresses ran to him for water.

"One of them was crying and I asked the interpreter why," said Gillespie. "He said she hadn't had food or water in five days and the little girl hugged my leg and said 'I love you.’ It breaks your heart.”

Another moment Gillespie won't soon forget was when he and his team first landed in Puerto Rico.

"The people in the whole airport were cheering us on and it was special. We felt like heroes coming in there," he said. "But being a hero was not why we went over there. It was to help people and it's a job that's not done."

Gillespie hopes to take another trip to the island in a week. If you'd like to volunteer with the American Red Cross, you can sign up on redcross.org.