East swimmer finds shelter after devastating hurricane
Nov. 12, 2017 at 12:33 a.m.
Updated Nov. 12, 2017 at 12:40 a.m.
Carlos Morales stirred the water as he swam his heat of the 100-yard freestyle during Saturday's Victoria ISD Invitational.
But the noise of the crowd bouncing through the VISD Aquatics Center during his four events couldn't compare to the cacophony of sounds he experienced while huddled in his grandmother's house in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when Hurricane Maria made landfall with 150 mph winds.
"Our electric gate flew away, the wooden part of the entrance blew away, my mom's car got a dent on the front," Morales recalled. "It was pretty nasty. It was like an end of Category 4 storm. A lot of wind."
Morales can't help but cringe as he remembers the aftermath of what happened Sept. 20 even from over 2,000 miles away.
"Things were bad over there," Morales said. "There were people looking for gas. If you don't have water nor power, you won't live. You have to wait in a long line for gas. Many power lines fell down, too. It was massive."
Morales' mother brought Carlos and his cousin, Eric Davila, to Victoria after the storm.
The decision was made to let them stay with their aunt and uncle, Hermes and Magali Silva, when she returned to Puerto Rico.
"It's been quite a story, breaking hearts for everybody and splitting families," Hermes Silva said. "After prayer and taking into consideration what's going on, my sister-in-law and her husband felt it was better to have them come here to Victoria with us."
Morales and Davila arrived in Victoria less than a month ago and have enrolled at Victoria East for their junior year of high school.
"They basically were in agreement with the move," Hermes Silva said. "They're doing remarkably well, academically and athletically."
Morales joined the swimming team and Davila will play baseball for the Titans.
"Carlos has fit in very well with the team," said VISD swimming coach Jon Walden. "Of course, the other swimmers understood his situation and where he was coming from. They were very accepting of him."
Morales swam competitively in Puerto Rico and has dropped his times since he arrived in Victoria.
"He has some experience - not at an extremely high level," Walden said. "He understands some of the fundamentals. He's coming with some knowledge. So far, he's made improvements, and hopefully, he'll keep on improving."
Morales has enjoyed being a member of the swimming team and attending classes at East and looks forward to continuing his education in this country.
"I get more interesting things here," he said. "The classes, the teachers. That's my top priority, is going to college."
Morales doesn't know when he'll have the opportunity to return to Puerto Rico, but he doesn't want anyone to forget the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.
"I would tell people mainly to send funds, more goods, more resources, more plants to survive, more electrical trucks and more power companies to help restore the efforts," he said.
Victoria West senior Dillan Sievers won three gold medals and one silver at the meet, which included 21 teams.
Sievers won the 100-yard butterfly, 200 individual medley and joined Drew Sanchez, Tanner Williams and Ethan Monney on the winning 200 medley relay team. He also earned a silver medal on the 200 freestyle relay.
West's Williams also won a gold medal in the 100 breaststroke.
El Campo's Camryn Jansky won the girls 50 freestyle, El Campo's Conner Williams won the boys 100 backstroke, and Faith Academy's Isabel DeSanno won the girls 100 breaststroke.
San Antonio Johnson won the girls team championship, and Fort Bend Dulles won the boys team title.