Dear Mr. President:
Today you denied that 3,000 people had died due to Hurricane María.
Today you erased my stepdad from your conscience. I only wish I could believe you. I only wish it was true that less than 100 people died from the Hurricane… but the one thing I cannot do today is call my stepdad’s phone and hear his voice one more time.
I would give anything in the world to hear it again.
My stepdad died in my mother’s arms of a heart attack on December 6 in the early morning hours after suffering through the worst hurricane in history. You see, no aid came to help him and my mom in the weeks after María. The flood waters destroyed their car—their only means of transportation. So when neighbors could not bring them water and food, he would walk. He walked, even if it meant it would kill him. Because the love he felt for my mom was so great, that he could not see her suffer.
And he walked until the stress and the anxiety were too much and his heart couldn’t take it anymore.
I cannot describe to you, Mr. President, what it was like to wake up at 6am, to news that would shatter your soul. To news you could not deny even though you tried. To the voice of my mother who sounded like a part of her had died, because indeed it had. When I flew back to Puerto Rico after Hurricane María, it was to bury someone I loved, and Mr. President, it would be a disservice to Puerto Ricans, some that have even served in American wars, to deny them the dignity of laying to rest their dead.
Please do not use their deaths for your political games. Please do not cheapen this moment of grieving by trying to erase our pain and suffering.
We are still in mourning… and every day that goes by, we miss those we lost even more. All I have left of my stepdad is a worn out photo from the summer before the storm, his handkerchief and the memories. I can’t change that, and you can’t change that, but what you can do treat this insurmountable grief we feel with honor and respect.
(a loving stepdaughter)
Debora Perez is host of Borikén Podcast.