DALLAS -- It may have been the first time the Dallas Mavericks' team plane landed with only one player aboard. But when the wheels touched down Tuesday evening, so ended a one-day mission of rescue and response for Point Guard J.J. Barea.
Last week, Barea watched as Hurricane Maria tore through his native Puerto Rico. This week he wanted to help, and so did Mavs owner Mark Cuban, who told Barea to take the team plane.
"As soon as I told them I was doing this, it was like ‘Go, go go,’" he said. "I’m a family guy and the Dallas Mavericks are family."
Monday, Barea and his friends loaded the belly of the plane with food and water, medicine and generators, much of it donated by North Texans. He skipped the first day of Mavs training camp, and took off for the island at 5 a.m. Tuesday.
"It’s like a bomb exploded. There’s nothing going," he said. "The water’s ugly. Everything is flat, houses don’t have no roofs, people are fighting for gas and water."
While Barea delivered supplies at an airstrip, President Donald Trump was in Washington, promising a strong response from the U.S. government.
"We have shipped massive amounts of food and water and supplies to Puerto Rico, and we are continuing to do it on an hourly basis," said the President. He said he plans to visit the island next Tuesday.
Barea hopes that aid reaches his father and uncles who stayed behind. He brought his grandmother and mother back to Dallas.
"I got to talk to my parents two days ago, finally. I saw them today, so it was pretty emotional," he said.
He knows he’s one of the lucky ones. Barea may return to the court on Wednesday, but he’s already planning a second aid flight from his current home to the one that holds his heart.
"It’s frustrating to see Puerto Rico like that, and I know there’s a lot of hurting right now, but hopefully we can keep getting better," said Barea.
If you'd like to contribute to Barea's efforts to help Puerto Rico, you can visit his foundation's fundraiser.