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October 30th, 2012
02:45 PM ET

Letters to the President #1380: 'After the storm'

Reporter's Note: President Obama and Mitt Romney remain focused on the storm that swept through the Northeast, as do I.

Dear Mr. President,

As I read up on the damage from the big storm, I could not help but find myself focusing on the stark contrast between the good and bad news. This was an absolutely massive storm slamming into one of the most populated geographic regions in the world. The potential for unbelievable loss of lives and homes was very real. Tragically, some people did lose their lives, and more lost their houses.

So what is the good news? This truly is a case in which it could have been much, much, much worse. Ask the people of New Orleans. Or the Gulf Coast. Or Joplin, Missouri. In terms of the direct, human cost of this storm, the whole area came out remarkably well. Maybe that is because leaders and the media did a good warning people to get ready. Maybe it’s because the storm behaved a little differently than we expected. Maybe we were just lucky. No matter the cause, we can all be thankful for all the lives and homes that made it through with little or no damage.

But then there is the other part of the equation which is demonstrably bad. The impact on the infrastructure and economy of the region is profound and could last for a substantial amount of time. The Northeast is a massive economic engine that drives employment for millions of people within its area and far beyond. Losing railroad lines, electricity, subways, airports, roads, and days of commerce in that critical part of the country will cost many billions of dollars…real money that will not be recovered. Towns will lose businesses as a result of this storm. Surviving businesses will lose income. And people will lose jobs.

The people who lost friends or family will never be the same, of course, and we can only mourn with them. Those who lost their homes will also be forever changed by the experience, and will largely have to chart their own private ways forward. But the rest of it…the long slow struggle to rebuild what was lost and restore fully the communities that were stricken…that is something with which we might all be able to assist. And judging from what I’ve already seen, there are plenty of Americans who will be happy to help.

Call if you can.

Regards,
Tom

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