SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) - The uplifting strains of one of Puerto Rico's most beloved songs filled the air at 6:15 a.m. on Thursday as a choir stood in the coastal town where Hurricane Maria made landfall at that moment exactly one year ago.
Led by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a cadre of 20 administration officials are meeting with Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and other local officials "to discuss ongoing recovery efforts as we continue building a stronger, more resilient Puerto Rico", deputy White House press secretary Lindsay Walters said in a statement.
"Puerto Rico is a colonial territory", and therein lies the "inherent difficulty", Rosello said in an interview with local radio WKAQ 580, as commemoration ceremonies for the hurricane victims were under way. Other residents, especially poorer people, say their lives remain in turmoil as a result of the storm, with relief agencies reporting that more people are requesting food and other staples than before Maria hit.
He said the exhibition walks a fine line, with some paintings showing attractive landscapes alongside trailers set up by Puerto Rico's forensics institute as part of the effort to try to identify the bodies of those who perished in the storm.
Like many, Rodriguez hoped that after Thursday, she would no longer be bombarded by photos and videos that make her feel like she's reliving Hurricane Maria. To every family who has lost a loved one in these really devastating hurricanes and storms: All of America grieves with you. The exact death toll figure remains unknown, and the governor has admitted his administration failed to properly record storm-related deaths.
Trump has said "3000 people did not die" following Hurricane Maria, disputing the George Washington study estimating the storm killed 2,975 people directly or indirectly from September 2017 through mid-February.
Researchers at George Washington University concluded last month that almost 3,000 Puerto Ricans were killed by the storm, comparing normal mortality on the island with the number who died in the months after the hurricane. That's not the only emotion people went through - at times, they were also angry.
Last month, the U.S. Commonwealth's government sharply raised the official estimate of Maria's death toll to nearly 3,000 after an independent study.
He said, "This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico". If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.
Jose Ortiz, director of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority, told reporters that 20 percent of repairs made to the power grid need to be redone.