Las Vegas residents react to President Biden’s visit
SANTA FE, N.M. – Before visiting with New Mexico state officials, President Biden viewed the destruction of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire from the air, not from the ground. Now, some people in Las Vegas are upset that he didn’t take the time to do that Saturday.
“I’m honestly shocked he knows New Mexico is a state and I think he’s just here to– I honestly don’t know why he’s here,” said Graciela Calderon, Las Vegas resident.
The fire has destroyed more than 430 homes, and many people have already returned to see the damage. Even for those whose homes are still standing, what was once a scenic landscape is now a wasteland, and it will take years even decades to recover.
“I think he should come and see all the damage that was caused here in our community,” said Lorreine Montoya, Las Vegas resident.
The president did get a bird’s eye view of the destruction from Air Force One, but residents say that’s only a fraction of the story.
“It traumatized me. I spent days crying, I had to leave the state just so I could stop crying. It’s traumatizing to lose everything you’ve built,” said Nell Rodgers.
President Biden promised the federal government will cover 100% of the cost of recovery from the fire, but residents who’ve already reached out for assistance are a bit apprehensive.
“It seems like everybody’s trying to point everybody else to someone else, so nobody has to take actual accountability,” said Calderon.
Calderon is one of the hundreds of New Mexicans whose property was destroyed.
Her shed burned down nearly a month ago, including all of the valuable supplies inside.
“We had all of our building materials that we’ve been saving for the past year, buying a board here getting flooring there, it was all put in that shed so that we could finish our casita, we were hoping, by the end of this summer,” Calderon said.
$8,000 worth of materials gone. A heartbreaking loss that only got worse when she reached out for help.
“Oh, you need to talk to FEMA, oh FEMA you don’t qualify, check with Red Cross, Oh, it wasn’t your permanent dwelling? You know, check with the city, see if they have any, you know? Everybody had somebody else to send you to and nobody was willing to say, ‘oh, yeah, we can help you,’” said Calderon. “I’m struggling just to get gas to come to work. And so, thinking of buying building materials, again is, it’s very stressful.”
Calderon knows she’s fortunate she didn’t lose her home but believes her story is not unique, and the president’s visit only highlights the rocky road to recovery ahead.
“I feel like these rural communities are the forgotten people of America, you know, and we’re the ones that keep it going,” said Calderon.