In Colorado, the journey has not even begun for so many. Communication has been cut off, as it was for us. Some have not been able to contact their families, much less their insurance companies. They are thinking about drinking water, not inventory lists. Shock has set in, and it will not really lift for months. A certain resolve will get good at skating over the surface of shock, but will come skidding to a sudden, bone-shattering halt wherever there is a break in the ice. A FEMA crack, an insurance rift, a structural fault.
Over the next few days, predator companies will come in. Opportunists without commercial driver licenses or credentials of any kind will round up official-sounding emergency remediation crews. They will want cash, and desperate people will pay it, too—thousands to get dried out. They believe this will help them get back in their homes sooner. It’s all they can think about. Normal, normal, I want normal back. I’ll pay anything. I don’t need a receipt. I don’t care who you are. You have a pump. You are our angel.
Many Coloradoans have just taken on a second full-time job, for which they will not be paid, but for which they will owe. Steve and I, who saved for everything we ever did, or carefully laid out an exact, affordable payment plan, will owe over $100,000. And, like us, they will work toward the obtaining of this money around the clock. They will be needled by requirements. They will be turned away. They will go gray. In a few weeks, a fairly significant amount of money will transfer to residents’ accounts from FEMA, and people who are comfortably back home will use it to take their kids to resorts or go for elective surgeries. There will be none left for families who need more to continue paying for temporary residences. They will complete hundreds of pages of pleading requests for further support, and they will be denied.
People who are denied will do desperate things to get home even without the money to go about it properly. They will try to patch up their problems. They will try to do wiring themselves, sheetrock and tile over compromised plumbing, and install laminate over subfloors that will warp in six months. They will not spring for expensive mold testing. They will be told six different things by six different people—insurance, remediation crews, the EPA, oil companies, FEMA, their municipality.
And that is only the beginning. Today I spent two and a half hours meeting with and calling five different people from the New York Rising program. They have still not resolved the problem.
The actual problem? At first I thought it was just that the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing. Now I realize that we are dealing with an octopus. The third hand agrees with the first but gives a completely different explanation, while the second adamantly disagrees with both and requests that I call the fourth for clarification. The fourth does not know anything because he is just doing what he is told. So I call the Fifth, a titled supervisor who says to be patient while she contacts the seventh, another higher-up who is in meetings all day. Trying anything, I find the sixth’s voicemail buried deep in my recent calls, and he asks me for more paperwork because the fourth, he says, was not supposed to take it. I call back the fourth, who transfers me to the eighth so that the eighth might advise me to cancel the unnecessary appointment with the fourth, who claims he is not allowed to release the paperwork he was not supposed to ask me for to the third, who needs it. Mind you, all these people are trying their very genuine best to help.
The octopus is coming to Colorado. Send strength to these poor people who are being drawn into its clutches. They were fortunate to escape the water, but the struggle has only begun. Send money. If you know someone, send a gift card or a meal. And don’t stop. Keep supporting. Keep giving. Keep praying. Do anything you can do to help pry them loose from the tentacles, which will only multiply as the days go on.