Cordero-Fernandez contacted his family back in Quebradillas - a small, rural town located on the northwest shore of Puerto Rico. Confident that the storm would miss as many storms had done in the past, he wasn't worried. But as the storm grew closer, Cordero-Fernandez agonized in his rack, unable to sleep for almost a week.
"I lost contact with them the night before it actually hit because communications started going down," said Cordero-Fernandez. Then, Hurricane Maria shredded his island with winds up to 155 mph and torrential downfall. The category 4 storm, the worst Puerto Rico had seen in nearly 80 years, destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power on the island and caused substantial flooding.
The next day when I started seeing pictures, I felt so useless in that moment because I knew I couldn't do anything," said Cordero-Fernandez. "I'm here on deployment."
Over the next few days, he tried over and over to contact his family, but most services on the hurricane-ravaged island were down and he was unable to establish communication. He kept his eyes glued to the TV and computer in his shop, reading and listening to reports about the conditions in Puerto Rico.
"Seeing so much devastation around the island and not being able to get a hold of them, I was just thinking the worst," said Cordero-Fernandez. "There's no way I can send money because I don't have their bank information, can't call them, can't do anything."