This story came to me entirely by accident when I was looking for info about another subject. I discovered a website for journalism students on fellowships with the Carnegie Knight News 21 project. This site is called State of Emergency and was created to cover what happens in the US after a natural disaster and how people survive and hopefully recover.
The story highlights a man who represented the US at the Tokyo Olympics as a member of the Modern Pentathlon team. (okay, we're a track and field blog, but you still have to run in pentathlon) James Kerr as a team member was a medalist although he rode the bench as the number four man. He was that guy who cheered on his teammates as they competed. He was like the guy who runs in the prelims to get his team into the relay final, but has to sit back and watch when the race goes on with the top four. He didn't get in the game. Yet as that number 4 man, he received a medal when the US team placed second.
James Kerr has survived for three years after multiple hurricanes (Irma, Nora, and Harvey) severely damaged his home near St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, and he has had to endure these difficult conditions after losing his sight and now gradually losing his hearing.
There is more here than just an individual man's story. There is a detailed description of what goes on after a disaster, what happens to people when they have to deal with FEMAd, when they have to get on their feet again. It can be a long, arduous process under the best of cirmcumstances. It tells how different states have very different programming to deal with the disabled and senior populations. Jim languished in his home for almost three years before he was able to secure safe housing and some care and support that meets his needs.
When I first saw this story I wondered what could be done for this man. I contacted Lutheran Social Services in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They put me in touch with the V.I. Association for Independent Living that helps the senior community, and I learned that only recently James got what he needed to begin living in comfort and dignity after those three years of waiting. This community was able to pull together and see to his care. He now appears to be getting what he needs, and I don't have to ask anyone for financial support for him. I even found out that the US Olympic Committee has a branch that looks out for former Olympians who are having difficulties, the Olympians for Olympians Relief Fund (www.oorf.org) . As a military veteran James may also be eligible for help from the VA. But I decided while driving home today that I didn't want to let go of this. So I'm asking if you, our readers, would be willing to write James Kerr a Christmas card with some good wishes to him. A simple card and a postage stamp might be a very, very caring gift in a time like this when we feel sorry for ourselves that we live under pandemic conditions, when we can't see our friends and families as we might like. Just a thought. Here is where you can send your card. If you wish to pass this story on to others, please do.
c/o V.I. Association for Independent Living P.O. Box 03305 St. Thomas, VI 00803- 3305
Here is the link to that story: People With Disabilities and Older Adults Left Out in the Storm