Photo: Casey (on left) holding her two-year-old daughter, photographed in December following the tornado that destroyed her home. (Source: Tribune Official Supporter)
By Michael Nolan
Victims of the tornado that hit Mayfield, Kentucky this past December are still being left to fend for themselves in another total failure of the capitalist ruling class to prepare for and respond to extreme weather. Opportunist politicians from the capitalist State and self-promoting philanthropists flock to the town in search of good press but leave most residents with very little.
One working class couple, Casey and Eric, spoke with Tribune of the People in early January in the shed they had taken shelter in for the past weeks, their two-year-old toddler living with them as well. The tornado made their rental house uninhabitable and destroyed their cars. Their jobs, previously within walking distance, are now a twenty-minute drive in a car temporarily on loan from Eric’s employer.
Casey said, “Before the tornado, me and Eric wasn’t ballin’ on money, our rent was paid, our bills were paid.” Now, they essentially had the clothes on their back, and the government is of no help. Eric said that Biden, who visited Mayfield two weeks after the storm, “came here and just told us how to spend the money we’re not getting.”
They have applied for aid from both FEMA and the Red Cross and have been denied by both. Most of the hard work of cleaning up after the storm is being done by the community, they say. “We need financial help, more than anything. Because honestly, once she gets her car back and we pay a first month’s rent, we’re broke,” Eric explained.
The family feels fortunate to be allowed to stay in this metal shed with plywood walls for the time being despite the worry that it provides little shelter against another severe storm. The property owner, who uses several sheds and campers on his property for a non-profit to help the homeless get back on their feet, says they cannot stay much longer, because it could jeopardize the property’s status as a non-profit and cost him thousands of dollars.
The couple are grateful for the help they have received, but the real challenge of getting their lives back together is not being solved by bags of dry food and donated clothes and toys. Casey said, “People are taking [donations] back to Walmart and returning them for cash.”
The family was contacted by a famous social media personality on TikTok named Charlie Rocket who raised $1.5 million dollars through his online platform for Mayfield storm relief. Rocket’s celebrity comes from his persona as a grassroots philanthropist, driving a colorful RV he calls the “Dream Machine” to where people are in need, and making a show of giving away money.
Casey said when Rocket “contacted us, he was just like, ‘Um…we’re not going to make no promises, your story has to get approved.’ What story do you need to approve? It just seems wrong to me.” Rocket did not give the family any money, but is continuing to raise money off the storm and carry out charity stunts in the area.
The deaths of eight workers at the Mayfield Candle Factory during the storm loomed large in the community. Threatened with firing if they went home, their deaths are on the hands of the capitalist owners, who rely on the desperation of the working class community to fill the low-paying, strenuous jobs. When Casey was a child, her mom worked at the factory, and Eric himself had spent a stint there. “Ever since I moved down here, I’d always heard about the Candle factory having poor management” Eric said.
This past week, graffiti in solidarity with the Mayfield workers reading, “Workers’ deaths on capitalists’ hands, Fight for Edwardsville and Mayfield!” was documented in Austin. Edwardsville refers to the town in Illinois where six workers died at an Amazon Warehouse in circumstances similar to the candle factory workers.
The family said the real challenge ahead is simply finding a place to live and acquiring vehicles. They both have jobs in Mayfield, and doubt they will be able to move back into town. The support that the working people of Mayfield need to move forward with their lives is not coming, despite the charade of aid from the State and self-interested philanthropy of social media personalities. Eric explained: “We lost our house, all our furniture, our clothes, our cars. What does it take to get all that back? It’s not donations. That’s what everybody is stressing about. And if you’re not stressing then you got money.”
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