Silver Spring man stranded in Honduras amid pandemic

Daniel Schlittler, 27, (left) and his friend, Nelson Rivera, 35. (Courtesy Daniel Schlittler)

A Silver Spring, Maryland, man just wants to get home after what was supposed to be a short vacation in Honduras quickly turned into an uncertain journey amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Schlittler, 27, arrived in Honduras on March 10 with his friend and landlord, 35-year-old Nelson Rivera. They were supposed to visit Rivera’s family members and see the Copán ruins. And then, they were supposed to fly out March 17.

That hasn’t happened, Schlittler said.

Honduras closed its borders last week in a bid to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. According to the U.S. State Department, the Central American country has more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and a curfew has been established.

“Our flight was canceled the day we were supposed to leave because of the airports closing,” Schlittler said. “We were supposed to leave from the San Pedro (Sula) airport and it closed. So, therefore, our tickets were canceled.”

Daniel Schlittler and Nelson Rivera visiting the Copán ruins. (Courtesy Daniel Schlittler)

A week after their original departure flight, Schlittler said they were expecting to leave. But they haven’t. He has tried arranging other flights, only to find them canceled.

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said. “Things are changing everyday.”

Schlittler’s confusion grew when he learned the U.S. women’s football team was evacuated out of Honduras just a few days ago. And he was incredibly concerned why he wasn’t alerted about the possibility of evacuations.

“We signed up for … the STEP program, to get notifications when these things would be happening, and we didn’t get any notifications. Nobody sent us any emails. We’ve been checking in with the embassy every day,” Schlittler said.

“We’ve been calling every day — why weren’t we notified about this? My heart dropped,” he said.

Schlittler and Rivera have been staying with one of Rivera’s family member in Tocoa, about a five-hour drive to the airport in San Pedro Sula.

At this point, Schlittler is just concerned about getting back to the U.S. He and Rivera are scheduled to catch a flight to Texas on Wednesday. But he’s worried that flight will get canceled.

“I’m extremely stressed,” he said. “I’m just out here screaming to high heavens to get me out of here.”

In an update Monday, the U.S. Embassy in Honduras coordinated with the State Department to get U.S. citizens back with a flight from the Ramón Villeda Morales International Airport in San Pedro Sula. The latest alerts from the U.S. Embassy in Honduras are available here.

Schlittler, who works as a contractor for Washington Gas, is especially worried about his job, and though his workplace has so far been understanding, possible unemployment is on the forefront of his mind if his extended stay in Honduras stretches for too long.

“It’s scary. People are going to lose their jobs,” he said.

And, he doesn’t have a definitive answer to give to his mother, adding, “My family’s freaking out right now. I come from a family of nine.”

Schlittler is certain that he and Rivera aren’t the only Americans still stuck in Honduras. There were a number of other Americans who have had issues going home, including a Massachusetts couple on vacation, a group of Texas high school students who were on a mission trip, and a Virginia woman who was teaching children through a nonprofit.

“When am I going to get home?” Schlittler said, frustration in his voice. “I just want to get home.”

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