I woke this morning to a front page headline in the Press Enterprise titled, Don’t abandon us, Bloom. It is a piece focusing attention on the town’s decision to stop free trash pickup and the overall impact on the residents in town. When I first saw the headline I thought maybe I was reading an editorial, but the story signifies something deeper than that. To me it is another example of the type of narrative that is built to construct a wedge issue.
“We ripped it out so it wouldn’t grow mold,” Mr. Taylor said. “Now it’s getting moldy out there.” Dawn Taylor said no one on their block had a good idea when debris pickup would end. They heard through word of mouth about the Wednesday cutoff. “And a panic kind of set in,” she said. “Like, ‘What comes after that?'” The Taylors have flood insurance on their house, but not its contents. That means they’ll be paying to replace their washer, dryer, stove and all the other appliances lost when just under 3 feet of muddy water rushed through their first floor. “We don’t want to take advantage of the system,” Taylor said. But they don’t have much money to spare for a Dumpster rental.
In addition to the stories of my friends’ needs, what I really wanted to see in the piece were some real details about what FEMA would and wouldn’t do, but we’ve all seen in the last few days what has gone on with that argument in DC. We aren’t at a place where we should be ready to blame our local government when these issues are so much more complex than a binary decision. All this is new territory to us locally, but we have to remember that regardless of the rhetoric we’ve historically entered into a social contract of sorts — local communities can count on the Federal Government to help us not fail when disasters happen. And a disaster has happened — locally. With that in mind, I think that in the wake of the flood we remember what real abandonment looks like to the people in and around Bloomsburg. It looks like this:
That is the image of total loss, of the need to abandon, and the need to be emotional. Keri and her family lost their house today. It is so easy to say she’ll get relief, but I hope we can lean on some sort of empathy and feel for them in ways we aren’t usually asked to. Each day this is happening in Bloomsburg. Each day this isn’t being shared. Why? Here is another story from another Bloomsburg resident that has lost everything … someone I can guarantee you won’t see in the paper or on the nightly news. This is the new reality and this is yet another story that wouldn’t otherwise get told. These are stories of real abandonment. This is a Flood of Silence.