Those wise and yet haunting words spoken by one of our nation’s greatest presidents couldn’t ring more true – especially today, as winter sets in on an estimated 130,000 of our fellow Americans who are still struggling without power. Many live without heat, hot water or inhabitable homes and question the government’s efforts to alleviate their condition.
Amid the election frenzy, several mainstream media outlets instantly praised the Obama administration’s response to the Hurricane Sandy devastation in the Northeast. But let’s look beneath the congratulatory headlines to see the real and horrifying picture of what’s happening.
Right now, homeless Americans are literally freezing, wrapped in blankets and trash bags as they struggle to survive in FEMA tent cities such as New Jersey’s “Camp Freedom,” which reportedly “resembles a prison camp.”
“Sitting there last night you could see your breath,” displaced resident Brian Sotelo told the Asbury Park Press. “At (Pine Belt) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletived).”
Sotelo said Blackhawk helicopters patrol the skies “all day and night” and a black car with tinted windows surveys the camp while the government moves heavy equipment past the tents at night. According to the story, reporters aren’t even allowed in the fenced complex, where lines of displaced residents form outside portable toilets. Security guards are posted at every door, and residents can’t even use the toilet or shower without first presenting I.D.
“They treat us like we’re prisoners,” Ashley Sabol told Reuters. “It’s bad to say, but we honestly feel like we’re in a concentration camp.”
Snow and icy slush seep into living areas through the bottoms of the government tents.
Meanwhile, officials are said to be banning residents from taking pictures and even cutting off WiFi and power access.
“After everyone started complaining and they found out we were contacting the press, they brought people in,” Sotelo said. “Every time we plugged in an iPhone or something, the cops would come and unplug them.”
He added, “Everybody is angry over here. It’s like being in prison.” In New York, residents of Gerritsen Beach have banded together to survive.