Our Opinion: Let's keep our focus on Puerto Rico

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Our fellow citizens in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and nearby islands aren't just victims of the catastrophic hurricane of September 20; they're victims of extremely bad timing. By the time Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, we'd already undergone weeks of wall-to-wall media coverage of the destruction and mayhem from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which struck Texas and Florida, respectively. Then, no sooner had the focus turned to Puerto Rico when our eyes were directed westward to Las Vegas, site of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

The point being, if these were normal times, Hurricane Maria's aftermath would still be receiving wall-to-wall coverage. The attendant appeals for public support would probably have been on the scale of those summoned in the wake of the earthquake in Haiti in 2010. But these are not normal times, and the consequence is the people of Puerto Rico and other territories devastated by Maria have been overshadowed in a brutish news cycle.

Let's take a moment to underscore the historic nature of this hurricane, which caused a level of devastation and disorder unparalleled by all but a few storms in U.S.history. As Florida and Texas shutter their last remaining hurricane shelters, many residents in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands continue to deal with death, destruction and formidable roadblocks for the distribution of aid. Just over two weeks after the storm subsided, most of Puerto Rico's 3.4 million residents still lack access to electricity and clean water. The wind and rain that lashed the island for more than 30 hours cut a 50- to 60-mile-wide,tornado-like wound from end-to-end, destroying almost all of the island's infrastructure — indeed, almost all of the built environment. All the while, the pace and scale of the initial relief efforts pale in comparison to other recent disaster-relief operations.

That said, we are pleased to see Berkshire County's many grassroots efforts to aid Hurricane Maria's victims ("Local events to aid relief," Oct. 5). A "Standout for Puerto Rico!" fundraiser Thursday in Pittsfield's Park Square directed donations to the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico, a fund set up by the Boston Foundation and endorsed by Gov. Charlie Baker and other officials. (Visit tbf.org/puertorico.) The Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican performer Ani Cordero will perform tonight at 8 p.m. at Mass MoCA in North Adams, and will be sharing resources for relief efforts. Other relief efforts include:

- Manos Unidas/Hopeseed Empowerment Cooperative will continue to collect supplies and raise money at two Pittsfield locations — Hope and Refuge Ministries, at 255 North St., and the United Methodist Church, at 55 Fenn St.

- Northern Berkshire's ministries are encouraging donations to unidosporpuertorico.com/en.

- The Diocese of Springfield is encouraging donations through its churches with "Hurricane Maria relief" in the subject line of a check.

- The Jewish Federations of North America are asking its members to donate to their 2017 Hurricane Relief Fund for all storm-affected victims at jewishfederations.org.

Hurricane Marie was literally an earth-shattering event. Let's not forget, and let's do what we can to help..


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