Washington mother's letter to the president petition goes viral

By WEEK Reporter

March 7, 2014 Updated Mar 7, 2014 at 9:56 PM CDT

WASHINGTON, Ill. -- Earlier this week FEMA denied a request that would have reimbursed Washington and other city governments for tornado clean up costs. One Washington Resident is not giving up hope. She's fighting to put this issue in the president's hands.

"Dear Mr. President, on November 17th, 2013--in your home state of Illinois an EF-4 tornado tore through Washington, Illinois decimating parts of it."

This is the beginning of Washington mother Rebecca Richardson's letter to the president that she wrote on Facebook. Little did she know those words would be seen by thousands. Her Facebook post went viral.

"As of this morning, almost a thousand people have shared it, and someone said, 'Why don't you start a petition?' " said Richardson.

So that is exactly what she did.

"We ask you and members of congress to take a look at this flawed system, figure out how we can save billions for other countries but leave our own holding the bag after a natural disaster," said Richardson reading parts of her letter.

Now it's an official petition on Whitehouse.gov. If it gets 100,000 signatures the letter will get to President Obama's desk. She knows her chances are slim, but she is still hopeful.

"We have to try," said Richardson. "We do nothing by being silent. This is our problem. This is our town."

It is a large effort inspired by frustration. FEMA said that Washington and other affected cities did not meet the damage qualifications to receive aid for public assistance. Richardson's city has already spent $26 billion dollars on post-storm expenses from debris removal, manpower costs to repair.

"Honestly, it's been through hell. It looks like a war zone," said Richardson. "You can't really know until you see it yourself."

Some of the hardest hit areas still display loads of debris.

"They gave to the individual level but where does that money come from for the city? This isn't about this year or even next year. This is about 5 years down the road when our kids are inheriting this mess," explained Richardson.

And she says she isn't convinced with Governor Quinn's plan to save tornado ravaged cities with $45 million dollars.

"Illinois is broke. Let's be honest," said Richardson. "The money eventually has to come from somewhere, whether it's the price of goods and services or taxes on home. That's when this will become another disaster."

For now, she hope that people will sign the petition, and help put this issue on the presidents hands.

As of Friday afternoon, there were more than 900 Facebook shares and more than 400 people signed onto the petition.

To sign the petition you can visit:

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/hear-our-voice-about-fema-and-its-process-acceptance-or-denial-after-natural-disasters/BbKWIZNb

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