The citizens of the United States of America, and all the people who love this country, were dealt an enormous loss in September of last year when Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. The Category 5 storm left millions of Americans stranded and in distress. It also left thousands in complete despair and devoid of hope as they realized that they were going to die slowly because the power wasn’t going to come back on or they weren’t going to find drinkable water.
This past week, the true nature of the island’s loss was made real to us when a report by Harvard FXB estimated that the mortality rate on the island increased by 62 percent between the hurricane’s landfall and the end of the year: Most of the people were without power, and despite many humanitarian efforts, food and water were still scarce.
When all the numbers were added up, the study concluded that an estimated 4,656 people died due to the failed response to the storm.
In an era when people get outraged about trivial things on a daily basis, it seems that the horrible tragedy that took place in Puerto Rico last year has somehow failed to ignite an appropriate amount of anger among Americans.
For those who need to be told, this is the time to be outraged.
Maybe the reason more people aren’t outraged is that too many of us don’t view the lives of our fellow Americans who are poor or people of color the same way we view ourselves or people who are similar to us. This reaction would be natural. But it doesn’t make it OK.
The United States of America is at its greatest when we are a melting pot of cultures where ideas and beliefs coexist in harmony. But we are even stronger as a nation when people from different backgrounds pull for each other, lend their fellow citizens a hand when they need it and cheer on each others’ success.
In Queens, we do this very well on a daily basis. Last year when the storm destroyed Puerto Rico, we saw our neighbors rally to support the island. Nurses and doctors from the borough were administering care within days of landfall. Unions and other groups organized relief efforts, often before elected officials stepped up to lead.
Despite these efforts, enough was not done, as is clear by this damning study. In light of this revelation of mass casualties, it’s easy and warranted to place blame and point fingers. The Trump administration clearly has not done enough. Congress is also culpable. But, while necessary, attacking elected leaders is not a fail-safe solution to this American tragedy.
The solution is giving. Giving time, energy, compassion and, if you can afford it, money.
Below are some charities still doing great work to help the people of Puerto Rico as they continue to recover. We encourage you all to consider supporting them in any way you can.
New York Stands With Puerto Rico — https://www.ny.gov/programs/new-york-stands-puerto-rico
The United Funds of Puerto Rico — https://www.unidosporpuertorico.com/en/
Puerto Ricans in Action — https://www.puertoricansinaction.com/
The Food Bank of Puerto Rico — https://bancodealimentopr.org/
All Hands Volunteers — https://www.hands.org/projects/puerto-rico-response/
Hispanic Federation — https://hispanicfederation.org/unidos/