Flights to Puerto Rico from Tampa resume

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(Woodys Aeroimages/Flickr)

Saturday was a day Angel Ramos and his family had been waiting on for weeks: the first commercial flight between Puerto Rico and Tampa since Hurricane Maria hit the island finally took off.

Ramos' in-laws, who were visiting from Puerto Rico, found themselves stranded in Tampa first by Irma and then by Maria. Neighbors have sent pictures of their home: once two stories, now only the first floor remains. Their kitchen stove sits among other salvaged bits of cabinetry and furniture on a concrete floor that now serves as the family's roof. 

Ramos says he's aware of the dire situation in Puerto Rico right now, but it isn't stopping his father-in-law from returning to what's left of his home.

"They're worried about it. It's all they have. Everything else was swept away so they need to be there. No matter what happens: no light, no water, no services…they have to be there," explained Ramos.

Though his mother-in-law stayed behind, his father-in-law took the first and only flight to be offered from Tampa to San Juan on Southwest Airlines Saturday afternoon. Ramos, who says he hasn't heard from some family members in more than 14 days, says he feels torn as he watches his birthplace unravel while doing everything he can to hold his Florida family together.

"I'm praying, praying and praying," said Ramos. "Trust me, in my life right now it's like I'm going crazy but I have to compose myself because I have to be strong for them and my kids too. But trust me: if I could go out there I would go."

Others at TIA on Saturday, however, were in much less of a rush to get back to their homes on the island.

"I would tell people wait to go. I know you want to get to your family and help people but the infrastructure can't support too many people," said Melanie Catalfomo, who evacuated from her home in Aguadilla on a U.S. Coast Guard ship. "It was a hard decision to leave while my two boys and my husband stayed behind, but I felt that we were three more mouths that needed hydration and food and gasoline and would just put more stress on the system. Every little bit helps right now."

On Saturday, Southwest Airlines was the first major airline in Tampa to resume flights to and from Puerto Rico. JetBlue's nonstop flights to the island remained cancelled.