Healing the gaping wound that Sandy left

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I couldn’t help notice how nervous he looked. He was clean-shaven, with neatly cropped hair, dressed as if he were about to go play golf. He seemed like a sociable guy, a businessman, maybe, who, under normal circumstances, would be quite affable, the life of the party. I imagined him at work, leaning back in an office chair, confidently chatting up a client. But on this day, he hurried around his house, checking on the students’ progress, if I should call it that. He spoke in quick, staccato clips, as if he were disoriented, his blood pressure seemingly rising by the minute.

I couldn’t shake the image of this man feeling so out of place in his own home, in his own neighborhood, which Sandy ravaged. Up and down his street, all manner of rip-out debris was piled high on the curb, the sidewalk was coated in white dust, and bits of dirty insulation drifted through the air.

Nearly two months after Sandy struck, his home and his neighborhood were still a disaster. I thought about how strange and awful it was that Congress had not yet even begun debating a $60.4 billion federal aid package for the tristate area proposed by President Obama on Dec. 7, despite the urgent pleadings of the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. And, judging by the news reports out of Washington, it didn’t seem as though Congress would OK the funds anytime soon.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, $15 billion is supposed to go to block grants to help repair homes, $13 billion to flood-mitigation projects to soften possible future disasters, $11.5 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid Sandy survivors, $9.7 billion to the National Flood Insurance Program, $6.2 billion to fully rebuild the area’s devastated transportation infrastructure and $3.2 million to repair the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, among other projects.

The size of this disaster is simply too big for any one state –– or any three states –– to handle. Federal intervention is needed. Yet according to Newsday, conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives, who oppose federal aid, could hold up the president’s disaster package as they question its size.
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