Commentary: Victims quickly forgotten about after disasters
Hurricane season is now far underway, and would it really be the season without a cataclysmic storm dominating the news?
Hurricane Florence — which has since been recategorized as a “tropical depression” storm — made landfall Friday in North Carolina, and has thus far dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some parts of the state and in South Carolina. The storm has killed more than a dozen people and left about 740,000 homes and businesses without power in the Carolinas, according to CBS.
The hurricane-level storms have since passed, but the storm’s heavy rains and flooding continue to be a threat. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) braced for the worst by establishing numerous state and local shelters in the Carolinas.
For those of us not usually affected by hurricanes, our empathy in situations such as these is the same nearly every time.
News of the hurricane’s path toward land spreads like wildfire, and Facebook quickly opens its “safe” function to allow users to let family and friends know they are out of harm’s way. Meanwhile, social media users flood their followers’ feeds with messages of prayer and concern.
Then the hurricane dissipates and with it goes the story from the news.
Take Hurricane Harvey, for example. Or Hurricane Sandy. Or even Hurricane Katrina. Puerto Rico, devastated last year by Hurricane Maria, only within the last months restored power to the last home affected by the storm. But how often have you seen stories written on clean-up efforts for these hurricanes?
A Fortune article estimated that Florence would cost the U.S. approximately $18 billion in damages — much less than Katrina’s $71 billion and Harvey’s approximate $184 billion.
Though Florence will cost much less than others, time will soon tell how severe its destruction may be. A FEMA administrator told Fox News that Florence will be a “long, frustrating recovery” because of what is anticipated by the organization as the worst flooding North Carolina has ever seen.
Months from now, however, Florence will be just another historical weather moment and a blip on the media’s radar. The forgotten turmoil of natural disasters and their victims comes too easy to too many of us. It’s great to donate to victims when you are being reminded of devastation by every major news outlet, but where are you when the news outlets have moved on to new stories?
We as journalists owe it to the victims to report on the recovery, but we all, as Americans, owe it to each other to continue donating to the victims.
If you are able, consider donating to the American Red Cross or Salvation Army relief fund. A small donation can go a long way toward rebuilding these areas to what they once were.
You can donate to the Red Cross at redcross.org/donate.