In one week, 739 Americans lost their lives due to the weather. The American Journal of Public Health definitively established that the medical examiner’s numbers actually undercounted the mortality by about 250 since hundreds of bodies were buried before they could be autopsied. From the moment the local medical examiner began to report mortality figures, political leaders, journalists, and in turn the public actively denied the disaster’s significance and questioned whether the deaths were - to use the popular phrase - “really real.” It was 1995 and there was a Democrat in the White House.
There were no charges of racism, though deaths were concentrated in the low-income, elderly, African-American, and violent regions of the metropolis
There was no questioning of the President or his response, despite an inadequate local heat wave warning system, power failures, inadequate ambulance service and hospital facilities, and city officials did not release a heat emergency warning until the last day of the heat wave.
There were no calls for Congressional inquiries, even though long before 1995, American public-health officials warned of the dangers of extreme summer weather.
After cities including Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Chicago itself experienced heat disasters in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began prodding government agencies to develop plans for preventing heat-related casualties. But few cities took this advice seriously. Chicago’s Health Department shelved its heat-emergency plan in the office’s back regions.
There was certainly a lot of heat… but not on the President. Where was the outrage? Where was the concern? Where was the blame?