[Many thanks to María Acosta Cruz for bringing this item to our attention.] In her poignant piece, ‘Three thousand people did not die,’ Alexandra Petri (Washington Post columnist and author of A Field Guide to Awkward Silences) responds to Trump’s recent tweets, in which he says, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico [see previous post Trump falsely claims… ].”
Three thousand people did not die in Puerto Rico. This is a great relief.
The 70 year-old woman who could not get medical care or keep her insulin cold in an apartment without power — she did not die.
The old man in a hospital where there was no power to give him dialysis for four days after the storm hit — he did not die.
The mother whom the ambulance, facing spotty cell reception and congested roads, could not reach until far too late — she did not die.
Thousands did not die months after the hurricane hit, as the recovery stalled, as the island still struggled with contaminated water and unreliable power, with blocked roads and long doctors’ lines. These are just statistics, concocted for political reasons. Three thousand people did not die.
The empty shoes that lined up in front of the capitol in San Juan belong to people who are still among us. They did not die; they will come and step back into their shoes. They will walk back up functional roads and sit in their houses where the electricity is working. They will laugh with relief that this was not a real disaster, nothing like Katrina. They will fill glasses with water that is safe to drink. They will live on an island where the recovery has been progressing with alacrity and competence.
They are all alive; you can see them, crowding around, cheering, demanding paper towels. They did not die; your work was sufficient; their lives are not on your conscience. It is an incredible unsung success.
Resources were not scant, volunteers were not underqualified and stretched too thin. Water that was dropped off for them did not languish first in storage and then on a runway for a year. The water system is not still questionable.
Three thousand people did not die. This is not human devastation of unthinkable proportions; it is just numbers, a list drawn up by Democrats, signifying nothing.
These disasters are much smaller than we are led to believe. They only appear tremendously big and tremendously wet from a distance. Afterward, they leave no lasting devastation in their wake. They start and end as quickly as the news cycle. They require no continued focus, no sustained work. Perhaps there are no real tragedies; there are only periodic incidents to give crisis actors needed employment. People did not die. These are just trumped-up numbers. This tragedy is nothing that cannot be mopped up with a paper towel.
They did not die. It is a comforting thought. The alternative would be unthinkable.