On the First Anniversary of Hurricane María, an Open Letter to the 115th United States Congress

Sep 20, 2018
7:44 AM

Fajardo, Puerto Rico a few days after Hurricane María (Photo by Dennis Rivera Pichardo | Center for Investigative Journalism)

Honorable Members of the 115th United States Congress,

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane María struck Puerto Rico in such a way that it completely leveled the island. A year later, it is still struggling to get back on its feet and have basic needs met in terms of housing, medical, mental health, and education. This day should be a time for reflection and honoring the survivors, along with remembering those who are with the Almighty. However, aside from the solemn tributes that is sure to take place, more must be done to ensure the tragedy of Maria never happens again to any American citizens.

In light of Donald Trump’s denial that close to 3,000 people likely died in Puerto Rico due to María, I’m asking Congress fully support “The National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act of 2018,” introduced by Representative Nydia Velazquez (H.R. 6103) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (S. 3076). Respectively, it has been sent to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The bill would create a 9/11 style commission to investigate the federal response to the catastrophe. It has the support of Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rosselló, who said earlier this summer that would stand behind such efforts.

Congress will not only investigate what went wrong during and after María but also address other problems Puerto Rico has faced since it was claimed as territory to the United States in 1898. In fact, the formation of such a committee is not unprecedented. After Hurricane Katrina, numerous hearings and reports took place that ultimately led to improvements in disaster responses. The victims of María are Americans who deserve the same level of care.

I am of Puerto Rican descent with family who has gone through and is in the aftermath of María. So yes, this is deeply personal. Although I was born in the states, and my Spanish is by way of the Bronx, Puerto Rico and the love for my people was born in me. Nothing is more disheartening than to see your mother well up as she recalls how she remembers her home growing up. For her, my family, and for the love of my people, this is why I write this letter.

I hope that on the first anniversary of Hurricane María, your support for Puerto Rico also goes in pushing for “The National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act of 2018.” We deserve answers along with the American citizens of Puerto Rico. Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Thank You,
John Verdejo
Raleigh, North Carolina


John Verdejo tweets from @JohnVerdejo.