Newport man waits for news of Puerto Rican relatives

NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) As the recovery effort slowly continues in Puerto Rico, one Vermont business owner is left in the dark, cut off from the most important person in his life.

"The day before Maria is the last time I spoke with my mom," said Anthony Rodriguez.

The Newport man has been giving tattoos in the Northeast Kingdom for 15 years. And no matter how busy his Newport shop is, he has always made time for his mom.

"Every single day I talk to my mom. If I don't talk to her on the phone, on Facebook, we video chat," Rodriguez said.

Grisette Ortiz lives in Las Marías, Puerto Rico, a little town on an island that was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

"Total disaster is what my little brother is telling me. Really, really, really bad. Really bad they say," Rodriguez said.

The hurricane knocked out power and communications to millions of people.

"They are going to need help, supplies-- definitely they need help," Rodriguez said.

He has been in touch with his brother and other relatives in the U.S. territory, but for the last seven days, he has not been able to get ahold of his mother or two of his aunts.

"Actually helping me clear my mind for a little bit while I'm doing a tattoo. Definitely missing my mom," he said.

He's putting his skills as an artist to good use, using profits made at the shop to support relief efforts. But it's clear emotional support is also something he needs.

"I can use all the help and support. That is about it, man. I can use all the help and support," he said.

Rodriguez says Puerto Ricans are strong people and he is confident his mom is coping well despite the disaster. But not knowing, he says, is the hardest part.

"I can talk about anything in Puerto Rico, but when it comes to hearing my mom, talking about my mom, it gets really hard," he said.

A man who holds a flag of his heritage as he waits by the phone.