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Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico. (Image va Wikipedia Commons)
Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico. (Image va Wikipedia Commons)

Tow truck driver faces down Irma aftermath

A 43-year-old man, who said his job as a tow truck driver can be scary, tough and dangerous, but added the most difficult situation he’s ever dealt with was not being able to talk to his family after Hurricane Irma.

Michael Gonzalez said his job is not easy. Not only does it require manual labor, but it also requires for him to be patient and careful.

“You never know what to expect when you’re picking up a car,” he said. “I once had a man pull out a gun and threaten to shoot me while I was trying to hook up a car.”

By Nick Rodriguez
South Florida News Service
@SFNS_NewsInstagram• Facebook 

“Being a tow truck driver is very challenging,” he said. “You never know what to expect. And when you go into an area you’re unfamiliar with, it can be scary.”

“South Beach Towing” is a television show that follows around local tow truck drivers. Gonzalez said the show can be “dramatic at times,” but said situations that occurred on the show could and have happened to him in the past.

“Someone pulling out a gun and threatening to shoot you rarely happens, but this job is still dangerous,” he said. “Thankfully, it has only happened once to me in the five years I’ve been doing this job. But, you do see a lot of unhappy people. They will yell at you, try to fight you at times and sometimes even get on top of the hood of their car, just so you don’t take their car.”

Still, what really got to Gonzalez was Hurricane Irma.

“Hurricane Irma was the most difficult and scariest situation I have ever been in,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, picking up cars can get scary, but this was the worst.”

Even before the hurricane made landfall in South Florida, he felt its impacts.

“Hurricane Irma really made working and sleeping tough,” he said. “My mom, grandma and some cousins live in Cuba. I wasn’t able to talk to them ever since the hurricane hit them and it made me sick to my stomach. I didn’t know if they were okay, which made me worry, a lot.”

His family noticed the changes.

“I could tell that my dad acted differently and it made me worry,” Maria Gonzalez, Gonzalez’s 13-year-old daughter, said. “I just hoped that we would hear from them soon, so he could feel better.”

After Maria finishes her day at school, Gonzalez normally picks her up and takes her to his sister’s house. Ana Cabrera, who is Gonzalez’s sister, takes care of Maria and her 16-year-old son, Brian Cabrera, until Gonzalez picks Maria up to go home.

“Ever since the hurricane hit Cuba, Gonzalez wasn’t been able to get a hold of our family in Cuba and he completely changed his routine,” Cabrera said. “He no longer went straight to work after he dropped Maria off; instead, he would sit in front of the computer for hours reading the news and refreshing his email. When he finished, he would sometimes go back to work or just take Maria home.”

His sister and daughter noticed a difference in Gonzalez’s behavior and actions, and so did his nephew.

“My uncle was worried about our family in Cuba, but I think there was more to it,” Brian said. “After living in an apartment ever since he moved to the U.S. six years ago, he finally moved into a house a year ago. He was probably also freaking out because he didn’t want anything to happen to the house.”

Work, not knowing if his family was safe and a hurricane headed to South Florida made life difficult for Gonzalez.

Once the hurricane had passed South Florida, it took him a couple of days to get back to normal.

“My house had no damage, but I did have some damaged plants and trees,” he said. “Luckily we’re safe.”

On Sep. 12, he received some news.

“I finally got a call from my mother and our family in Cuba is okay,” he said. “I now feel a lot better knowing that they are safe.”

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