President Trump announced Tuesday that he'll visit the hurricane devastated island of Puerto Rico next week. It's about time he pays serious attention to the looming humanitarian crisis in the U.S. territory instead of tweeting about football players exercising their Constitutional rights.
According to news reports, almost all of the island's infrastructure was knocked out by Hurricane Marie; power, water, cell service. By early this week, food and fresh water were starting to run out, and island officials and residents were appealing to the federal government to step up its efforts to help with recovery.
We also learned this week that the disaster hit very close to home. Moira Nickerson, raised in Chatham, and her boyfriend hadn't been heard of since the hurricane struck the island. Residents of Vieques, they had decided to stay on the small island to help out after the storm. Moira's parents finally got word that she was OK on Monday. While Puerto Rican native Ignazio Mortell's parents were safe, the Chatham resident was desperately working to bring them to Chatham where they stay until it was safe to return home. The folks at Cape Air, founded by Harwich resident Dan Wolf, were working hard to ensure that their employees on Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands, many of whom have ties to the Cape, were safe.
Meanwhile, Mortell and several others are organizing relief supplies and benefits for residents of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other locations ravaged with Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Marie.
While the federal government has redirected FEMA and other resources to Puerto Rico from locations damaged in earlier storms, it was clearly late in getting help to this island of mostly U.S. citizens. Perhaps the extent of the damage was not realized at first, or maybe it's the result of the island being a mere U.S. territory. Clearly, it was not high on Trump's list of priorities. Even after he acknowledged the magnitude of the crisis, he couldn't resist tweeting seemingly derogatory comments about the island's infrastructure and debt. Well, Puerto Rico's financial situation isn't going to get any better now that most of its infrastructure has to be rebuilt. And it may be time for federal officials to consider that such an investment might justify starting the process toward statehood, so that should disaster hit again, Puerto Rico won't be just another after tweet.