President’s words stoke the heartache that remains with Alex Cora
They are Alex Cora’s people.
He was born, raised, and still has a home in Puerto Rico. So Sept. 16, 2017, forever will be ingrained in his heart and his head. That’s when Hurricane Maria hit, causing untold devastation to the island and its people.
So don’t tell Cora that Puerto Ricans didn’t suffer at the hands of Hurricane Maria on that fateful day when the lives for many of the islanders were disrupted forever.
Don’t tell him that only six to 18 people died, and don’t tell him that figures assembled by an independent study putting the toll close to 3,000 aren’t accurate. He knows better, and he knows the people of Puerto Rico know better.
So when President Trump rejected the 3,000 number in a series of tweets Thursday — blaming Democrats even though the study was conducted by an independent agency — it didn’t sit well with the Red Sox manager. He has talked to people who were affected. He knows of people who are still affected, who still don’t have running water or electricity in the mountains almost a year later.
“I thought he was going to mention something in a few days, Sept. 16,” said Cora. “Now that he got ahead of himself — you know, 3,000, 6, 18? I don’t know. We will never know how many we lost.
“I hate that people make it a political issue. This is about human beings. The people that went through this, they know what happened. You know, we have, our population, 19 percent of our population are elderly. It’s old people, just put it that way.
“And the effect of Sept. 16, the rain and the winds and whatever happens, maybe 18 people died. But the aftereffects, people don’t talk about that. And when you don’t have food, you don’t have water, no communication, no medicine, then this happened.
“And one thing for sure — the government helped. We do feel that they helped us. I don’t know if it was efficient, it was enough, I don’t know.”
Cora is grateful to the people who did help. Jim Crane, for instance, the owner of Cora’s former team, the Astros, came up big.
“The one thing for sure, the Red Sox helped. The Cubs, the Pirates, the Houston Astros,” said Cora. “There’s a lot of people in the States that they’re still helping us. To be tweeting about 3,000 people and be efficient, it’s actually disrespectful for my country.
“We see it that way. I know probably he doesn’t feel that way. And like I said, hey man, thank you for helping us. He went down there, he did what he did.
“I hate talking about politics and all that, but I think this is more than politics. This is about a country that really suffered. We still . . . you see the hurricanes forming now. Everybody’s panicking. It’s not easy.
“One thing’s for sure, and I told you guys before, one thing I’m proud, we’re standing up on our own two feet. Like, do we need help? Yeah, we do. We know that. But we’ve been battling through it. We’re not where we were. But we will be there. And it’s just a matter of time.
“But you know it’s a little bit kind of like frustrating that the topic keeps coming and coming and coming. What’s the point, honestly? And I respect him. He’s the president of the United States. But I don’t agree with a lot of stuff that he says about us.
“I mean, like last year, when Mr. Crane got that plane, he got us a plane. It was 150 passengers. And like I said, that day was, when I was in the baggage claim, at the airport, and Mr. Crane was right there, I’ve never seen so many people being so grateful of somebody.
“I mean, there were people that they were sick. Young kids. My kids were there, they were, what, 3 months old. You know to be able for them to come over, that was, like, unreal. That’s what it was all about. And Mr. Crane hasn’t even talked about it.”
And the suffering isn’t over. Cora has heard too many stories.
“We know a lot of people that, right now, they’re still suffering,” said Cora. “They don’t have a roof. They have a tarp. And there are people in the country, like, in the mountains, they have no water.
“They just found out there was a military base in a town in the east coast that they found I don’t know how many bottles of water. Just in the runway. And it’s been there for six months. And FEMA kind of, like, fumbled that one, from what I heard.
“There’s a story after story after story. It’s been a struggle, but like I said, man, hey, we’re better in the last year, obviously. We’re better than yesterday. We keep getting better.”
So he understands the pain, the sorrow, the aftermath of what happened, and that people lost their lives because they didn’t have electricity or couldn’t get to a hospital or couldn’t get access to the medicines they ran out of.
It’s a horrible story. One that Cora thinks about daily. He hates what happened. He hates that so many people suffered and died. He just wishes the president would acknowledge that things didn’t go as smoothly as he’s been touting on Twitter. And that things were pretty bad and some lost everything.
But Cora believes there eventually will be a happier conclusion.
“It’s just a matter of time for us to be that enchanted island that we were back in the day,” he said.