Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) brought a St. Thomas native displaced by the hurricanes as her guest to Donald Trump’s first state of the union address Tuesday evening.
Members of Congress can bring a guest and there is a long tradition of members choosing to bring a constituent.
“As we reflect on the progress of our country as a whole, it is critical to keep in mind our fellow citizens who are still in recovery from devastating natural disasters. With this purpose in mind, I have invited as my guest to the State of the Union address, a St. Thomas native who was displaced by the recent hurricanes – Sean David,” Plaskett said in a statement Tuesday morning.
“Sean David and his fiancée, Valandiah Clarke’s, story began a few days before the landfall of the storms, as they eagerly awaited her much anticipated prenatal checkup. The storms arrived and destroyed much of the infrastructure of the Virgin Islands, including the hospital. Large swaths of the territory became unlivable, especially for expectant mothers,” she said.
“Sean and Valandiah spent several weeks drafting exit plans that failed. As the weeks ticked by, the situation became increasingly critical. There were no facilities left in the territory that could deliver their child and air travel is risky for mother and child after 36 weeks of pregnancy. Finally, in the last possible week before air travel would be hazardous to Valandiah’s health, they were able to connect with an organization that works with expectant mothers. The organization put them on a private flight to Fort Lauderdale, FL, where they were then able to catch a flight to Baltimore Washington International. After several weeks searching for employment, Sean was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to transfer to a position in Baltimore, MD through his previous employer.”
Plaskett said their story is not atypical.
“Disaster survivors – many of whom are still unable to return home – are fighting to put their lives back together. Making their lives whole again will require a massive and coordinated effort spanning the course of many months, and indeed years. The State of the Union is an excellent time for us to come together once again in order to reflect on our efforts in the previous year. Did we do all that could be done to support our citizens in need and how can we move closer towards accomplishing our goals of healed and prosperous communities throughout the United States? she said.
Trump’s speech Tuesday did include mention the disasters that struck the United States in 2017, including the hurricanes that battered the Caribbean.
“To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else – we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together,” he said in his 90-minute televised address.