By Russell Hatler
A year ago , shortly after Hurricane Florence blew the pants off the Outer Banks and devastated Wilmington, a friend of mine from Puerto Rico, Tony Perez, phoned to tell me our President had announced to the world that the recovery from Hurricane Maria exactly one year earlier was finished, and the people of Puerto Rico loved him.
Tony said No and No.
The thing was, when our President assured the world that Puerto Rico was in good shape, the donations to non-profit organizations who were helping in the recovery effort dried up. Talk about your unintended consequences!
I promised Tony Iâ€™d see what I could do to help.
A friend and I built a website, www.raprr.com, which stands for Raising Awareness for Puerto Rican Recovery. In addition to posting photos and videos of the disaster, I put together some historical blogs telling the uninformed (us folks up here on the Mainland) about the rape and pillage of the island from the time Chris Columbus set foot on shore right up to the day our President tossed out the towels. Itâ€™s not a pretty story and not one you might find in schoolbooks these days. History, itâ€™s said, is written by the victors.
To date, weâ€™ve had over 18,000 visits to the site. Itâ€™s still active if you want to check us out.
I also promised to write a novel about the recovery effort. Well, my characters donâ€™t take kindly to civilized behavior, and Iâ€™m afraid the best they could do in this situation was to try and rebuild Puerto Rico with funds garnered from a poorly thought-out cocaine distribution business. Shoot me.
In any case the book is finished. Itâ€™s titled Giants.
We went down the first week of August to launch the book at the Casa Norberto indie bookstore in Plaza Las Americas in San Juan. Reception was great. The book launch was well-attended. The local PBS station, WIPR, interviewed me prior to the event and posted the video on YouTube. You can catch it here:
Now Iâ€™m not saying we saved the island. Iâ€™m not even saying the novel, Giants, is a masterpiece. But we did the best we could, and Iâ€™m proud as punch that I was asked to pitch in.
Whatâ€™re writersâ€™ skills for if not to help our fellow pilgrims through this vale of tears?