My favorite sneakers, in sewage
We are here for you. We will help you. Time to pull together.
It’s all bullshit.
The governor, senators, mayors and their PR team members, FEMA representatives, the Red Cross, R.A.F.T., recovery groups, news anchors, downtown shop owners, your landlord, your property management team, your neighbors, your fellow city dwellers …
The government cares more about infrastructure (though if you ask a government rep what that means, most don’t know). I think it’s electric and sewer and rail systems and buses and getting people back to being normal.
You will never be normal again.
What you lost
My apartment, post-flood
It doesn’t matter if you lost a million-dollar home or the use of a studio apartment, your Gucci bag collection or your baseball-hat collection, you are all the same flotsam to the government.
On the road
I spent five months on the road – in towns I never heard of before the flood, in hotels in far-off construction zones, and in rooms with locks installed in 1970.
A city that cares? Tee hee! Once property managers, apartment managers, and hotel owners realize the money to be made by desperate, homeless people … you are screwed.
The Big E
The E in FEMA – I think it stands for “emergency.” It took their emergency staff five months to set up a trailer for me. For those five months, I was on the road – spending my savings – staying in hotels hours away from my family because I couldn’t find a hotel room in Minot.
One FEMA rep had the nerve to say, “Oh, you have a condo in NM? Why don’t you move back there?” After I just told this witch that I needed to stay in Minot because my family was here.
Once FEMA “sets you up”
My former neighborhood
You’ll be answering questions you wouldn’t want to answer for your bank, your employer, your psychiatrist, your proctologist, or your BFF.
I had one nice conversation with a secretary in the Mayor’s office. After that it was a PR firm rep hired to manage the influx of calls. He kept telling me to be patient, giving me resources that didn’t apply to my situation.
Ha. They are too busy campaigning or filing the forms I have tick marks on.
In the year I was in a FEMA trailer, I had five or six different reps. I lost count. None of these reps cared about my situation, my family, my loss, the baseball-cap collection I compiled over thirty years, the ELO albums I’d saved since high school, the pictures and maps I had handed down to me by my Mom.
They ask you hundreds of personal questions, but they rarely answer any of your questions.
Reps that care
A FEMA rep will visit you once a month and tick off a form. FEMA maintenance people will show up and tick off a form. A guy with a clip board will show up after the maintenance visit to tick off his form.
There will be people and reps poking you where you never got poked before. It’s like bad sex without the dinner.
Most of the resources I was given were not available to me because I made too much money, I was insured, I didn’t lose enough, I was not a homeowner, I was not this, that, or the other.
You write a letter to the mayor, you get a form letter. You write a letter to your governor, you get a form letter. You write a letter to a senator, you get a form letter. I had a letter to the editor published – that got a few comments.
People in your own hometown
Yeah. If they weren’t in the path of destruction, they carry on like it’s a Fourth of July picnic.
Who you can depend on
I’m not quite sure at this point. Most of my family and friends forgot I was displaced because I was displaced for so long.
It’s not their fault – they’ve never been through the nightmare. They think being held up in an airport for a couple days or losing their internet connection is an inconvenience of epic proportions. Most friends will go about their business like nothing happened.
Minot vs. New York
Minot got a few minutes of fame. Some movie actor is from here, so we got a little attention. But NEW YORK! When the next tragedy strikes, you will be shoved aside for the latest news story.
Yep. You betcha.
If you know someone directly affected by the tragedy in New York, reach out and reach out often. Don’t forget about them after a week or a month – their difficulties will continue for some time. My situation has dragged on for 18 months, and there are still others waiting for help – to finish rebuilding their homes, to find affordable rental units, and to get their salvaged belongings out of storage.
If you are too far away to do anything in their company, you can still call or write, ask questions, and sympathize.