- - Sunday, September 24, 2017

When millions of Americans — from Texas to the U.S. Virgin Islands — fled our homes to escape the wrath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, we watched in fear as the storms ravaged our communities.

We were grateful to be out of harm’s way, having heeded the warnings that our lives could be destroyed by the raging storms. But our hearts were far from safe as the tempests ripped through entire neighborhoods, obliterating treasured homes and life savings in the process.

Would we have a home to go home to? Would the rooms our children slept in be swept away? Would our kitchens, with their warm memories of laughter and the aromas of family dinners, be obliterated?

My husband and I flipped between live reports, searching for coverage of our specific community in Southwest Florida during Irma’s rampage. I landed on CNN, where news anchor Chris Cuomo had precariously positioned himself on a balcony in Naples as the torrent of the eyewall lashed him with punishing winds and rain.

Given that Naples is about an hour from where we live, I knew that what happened to the homes and neighborhoods there would be an indicator of how our home might fare.

Mr. Cuomo shouted over the drowning noise of the storm as he speculated how the beautiful homes along the beaches of Naples might be submerged by the expected storm surge. He had my full attention as my heart pounded in my chest.

However, I quickly found myself disgusted and in disbelief (yet again) at Mr. Cuomo and CNN when he proclaimed, “We don’t give a damn about property in a situation like this.”

Mr. Cuomo was clueless about the cruelty of his words to those who were desperate for news about our homes, businesses and personal belongings. When he added, “We’re about protecting life,” it rang hollow given that Naples had been evacuated. His continued grandstanding as some sort of storm savior while being needlessly drenched started to sicken me.

This elitist reporter, whose own home and livelihood were secure thousands of miles away, was telling real storm victims that he doesn’t “give a damn” about the loss of their property?

Once again CNN demonstrated its ignorance of the fact that it is not possible to truly care about “lives” and people without also caring about what is important to them. The media elite fails to recognize that property ownership — no matter how large or small — provides people a sense of dignity and responsibility, and gives them something to show for their hard work.

I’ve got a message for CNN and Mr. Cuomo: Most Americans care very much about property loss. The billions of dollars that are a hit to our economy are about property loss. The mom-and-pop businesses whose livelihoods are destroyed are about property loss. The little children whose schools are shuttered are about property loss. The families who are suffering with no clothes or personal belongings — who can never go home — are about property loss.

Americans of all persuasions can be thankful that those who are actually in charge — our president and others responsible for disaster relief — understand the intrinsic value of personal property to the human spirit.

Just a few weeks ago, after Harvey destroyed the homes of families in Texas and Louisiana, I caught Health and Human Services Secretary Ben Carson on Bret Baier’s Fox News show discussing how HUD and other agencies are working diligently to get speedy help to those suffering the loss of their property.

Mr. Carson’s words reflected the warmth and sincerity that has characterized his life’s work as a caring physician when he said: “The home is something that is so precious to people. And it’s not just the bricks and the mortar. It’s the emotional attachment to it, and in many cases the family memorabilia — all these kinds of things that are lost — that is so emotionally taxing on people. The last thing they need is now to have to go through this incredible bureaucracy in order to get any help.”

President Trump, Mr. Carson, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Florida Gov. Rick Scott are doing a tremendous job on the national and state levels to cut the red tape in order to speed aid to people who lost their homes. They care very much about other people’s lives and livelihoods. Although our property was mercifully spared, I’m so grateful that they are working on behalf of those who are suffering.

Mr. Carson recently pledged his continued efforts to help those in need, saying “HUD is in this for the long haul. We know that this is a recovery that’s going to take years — could be many years — and we’re prepared to be here for the long run.”

Thank God that HUD is in the hands of Ben Carson at exactly this point in American history. He understands that homes are sacred, that homeownership is still the American dream, and he is working to bring healing to those who are hurting, as the great doctor has always done.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at rebecca@rebeccahagelin.com.

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