At this time four years ago we were just beginning the long cleanup from the catastrophic results of Hurricane Maria.
Back in 1989, we thought we had seen the worst when Hurricane Hugo inflicted wide-spread destruction on the territory.
We were wrong.
In 1995 we thought nothing could be worse when Hurricane Marilyn cut a merciless swath across the territory.
We were wrong again.
The real worst came four years ago, in 2017, when within a two-week span, Hurricane Irma and then Maria viciously devastated the territory.
We had not fully recovered from Hugo when Marilyn hit, leaving us struggling for two decades to get back on our feet and out from under blue tarps and federal relief debt.
But in comparison to Hugo and Marilyn, the impacts of the twin Category 5 hurricanes we appropriately call Irmaria — our “Category 10” — make Hugo and Marilyn seem like just a few windy, rainy days.
Irmaria was a serial killer.
People died. Our economy died. Our trust in government died.
The forensic evidence is all around us.
Federal recovery money gushed in like it was coming from a firehose, but so did greedy opportunists, inside and outside government. Predatory contractors arrived and hung around long enough to make a money grab and disappear back to the states. Government padded its payroll with friends and family and lovers whose major work consisted of carrying their heavy paychecks to the bank. Reports of misappropriation of government supplies and equipment abounded.
Recovery took a back seat when corruption was at the wheel, driving the recovery planning decisions.
During this anniversary of Irmaria, let’s look and see and then ask:
Where are the many fine new school buildings and athletic fields the recovery funds were supposed to build?
Where are the airport jetways and modern waiting rooms?
Where are the well-stocked, adequately staffed, and properly repaired libraries?
Where are the new, state-of-the-art hospitals?
Where are the modernized, efficient, financially sound WAPA facilities and operations?
Where are the detailed plans for recovery from the next big ones, which we dread every day at this time of year, our “anniversary” time, when potential hurricanes are rolling like freight cars off the coast of Senegal?
Where, where, where are the many improvements, on many levels, that we should be gazing upon right now, four years after the disaster?
But most of all:
Where did the $8 billion in FEMA-coordinated funds go?
Show us the money.