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On leaving and being left behind

My World's on Fire
On leaving and being left behind
By Colleen Hagerty • Issue #41 • View online

Thanks for reading my World’s on Fire, a weekly newsletter about disasters from journalist Colleen Hagerty. If you found this dispatch interesting, I hope you’ll subscribe!
First things first…
After nearly a year on Substack, I’ll be leaving this platform. I’ve been disappointed by the company’s response to concerns over harassment and discrimination, and I don’t wish to support them any longer as a user. I’m happy to elaborate on this in the comments and answer any and all questions.
That said, I don’t want My World’s on Fire to end – hopefully you don’t either!– and I plan on continuing to publish as I make moves. This means you’ll keep getting emails regularly, though they will ultimately be coming to you from a different address once the move is made. You don’t need to do anything to stay on the list!
As for a new platform, I’m currently exploring options. I’m very conscious of how different sites handle your data as subscribers, and those that do a good job in that area are often paid. So, I’m launching a Patreon to help cover the costs of this transition. I’m actually really excited about this – it’ll be a space where you can get extra content and where I’ll likely experiment with features before bringing them to the public newsletter. Once I receive enough to cover my costs, I’ll send a message out to patrons to figure out what they are comfortable with from there.
I’ll be honest – it would be great to keep some funds coming in, as original reporting is difficult to provide for free as an independent journalist, and this could open me up to doing significantly deeper-reported work for this newsletter. I’m so incredibly thankful for those of you who have made individual donations in the past, and I’m eager to keep this content free for the general public with the support of those who have the means. I feel strongly that anyone who wants to become better informed about disasters should have access to this newsletter, and your donations can help make that happen.
TLDR/what this means for you: I’m leaving Substack and will be migrating this newsletter to a new provider. You don’t have to do anything (just know that the email address will likely change within the next month), but if you are open to supporting my work, check out my Patreon!
Now, onto today’s edition
A few months back, one of my editors described me as “the kind of reporter that voluntarily listens in on FEMA webinars.” It’s a label that is entirely correct, if very uncool – and admittedly, it doesn’t stop there.
While I can never truly understand what it’s like for disaster survivors, even when I’m standing alongside them, it’s felt particularly difficult this year to grasp what they’re going through and convey it to others while sitting at a desk in my bedroom. So, one of the habits I’ve developed during the pandemic has been to tune into videos of local town meetings from areas I’m reporting on. I started my career working in local news, which means I have spent countless hours at town hall/board/club meetings in schools/libraries/rec centers with bad lighting and worse coffee. Watching online isn’t the same as being there in person, of course, but it has provided me with a helpful window into the thoughts and concerns of these communities.
Last week, I tuned into a meeting about long-term recovery plans in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana. It’s an area I’ve covered repeatedly in this newsletter, from how Hurricane Laura survivors mobilized on Twitter after the August 2020 storm to the recent impact of the winter weather that struck the state in February. It’s really powerful to listen directly to the residents themselves, though, so I wanted to share the video of that meeting with you. The speakers start from about nine minutes in and range from faith and local business leaders to the founders of a mutual aid initiative to others just eager to have their voices heard.
Long-Term Hurricane Recovery Public Meeting 3/30/21
Long-Term Hurricane Recovery Public Meeting 3/30/21
If you only have a few minutes, I encourage you to jump to 23:00, when Lydia Larce takes the mic. A resident of Lake Charles for more than five decades, she pleads for more outreach to her community in the planning process.
“We’re 62 days out to hurricane season ’21. What’s your plan? What’s the plan that you’re bringing to the people about what you’re doing behind these closed walls?” she asks officials. “We have to come from behind the brick and mortar, and we have to go to the community to which you serve and inform the community for which you serve.”
She ends with a pointed statement, delivered to a silent room.
“You have to make our people feel as though they are a part of,” she says. “And right now, we’re being left out.”
So often, we hear from those impacted by disasters in the immediate aftermath of the event, then not again until an anniversary. Listening to this meeting was a reminder of how critical it is that we pay attention to these voices in-between those moments – that they aren’t left out of the coverage as critical decisions are being made about their futures.
For readers from Calcasieu Parish, you can still submit comments and suggestions on the recovery plan here. And for those from other places, I hope this gets you a little bit more interested in checking out local meetings in your area – we’ve all been through a disaster of some sort this past year with the pandemic, and it’s a great way to better understand your own community’s needs, too.
As always
thank you for reading My World’s on Fire. You can reply to this newsletter to reach me or let me know if you liked it by hitting the little “heart.” It also means the world to me when you share it on social media like Joe Lowry did:
Joe Lowry
March thread: Share what's on your radar by @colleenhagerty. Always a good read!
Now, here’s a little something for reading to the end.
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