It happened just one week before the elections. Obama could have capitalized on disaster relief plans. He could have been there for us, not just with words but with actions that bring warmth to our homes and light to our weary faces. Instead I am stuck at a gas station at 4 a.m, stranded between two hard decisions: wait in line for two hours and run out of gas or return to my bleak, frigid house in northern New Jersey. There are so many things he could have done.
Disaster relief is arduous, expensive, and often too slow. We have seen in the past what delayed service can do to the morale of a people, as in the wake of the much more catastrophic Hurricane Katrina in 2005. President Obama has been gifted with that hindsight as well as a fair enough warning of the impending destruction that would cripple us in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. So why are over 2 million of us still suffering?
Last night I had to escape the bitterly chill floorboards at home for the warmth of a nearby Panera. As expected, it was seething with fellow New Jerseyans, desperately searching for amnesty. One of the workers told us about how no one was working on their downed power lines in Paterson; how she didn’t even have a ride home since NJ Transit bus schedules were only partially operating. The couple sharing the power outlet next to us were fuming mad about the fact that PSE&G electricians had been working around the clock to restore power to the Garden State Plaza Mall, while not even coming to assess the damage in residential areas.
“Why hasn’t Obama called in the National Guard to help clear trees and free power lines?” “Where is the rest of the country when we are desperate for gas and lines at the pump are no shorter than 2 hours at any given time?” “What will we do when it gets colder and we have no gas to get around?”
We are frustrated, cold, and exhausted. If Obama had put up an even greater show of support we could have endured better. But when no one comes to your rescue, it’s almost impossible for tempers not to flare. Fist fights at the pumps. Road rage and dark traffic signals. No PSE&G trucks coming to at least begin work on our lines. In the wake of Katrina, this storm relief seems mismanaged and acutely slow. Obama, with the election only days away, is this what you want us to remember about your last month in office?