Zoe Daniel: From Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, it was a horrible week for America

Zoe Daniel: From Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, it was a horrible week for America

Zoe Daniel: From Puerto Rico to Las Vegas, it was a horrible week for America

Updated 6 October 2017, 12:00 AEDT

The United States went from one disaster to another this week.

It was about 2:30am on Monday when I got a breaking news alert on my phone.

It wasn't loud, but I'm so conditioned to it that I'm sure it would wake me at a thousand paces.

I was in a hotel room in San Juan, Puerto Rico, having flown down on a C130 with the National Guard days earlier to cover the awful aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Cameraman John Mees and I had been criss-crossing the US territory speaking to people still struggling with no electricity or communications and little food, water or fuel weeks after the storm hit.

It's an awful situation for 3.5 million Puerto Ricans, many of whom have lost their homes and any semblance of a normal life, and now spend their days queueing for water and fuel.

US President Donald Trump finally visited, but failed to go to any heavily damaged areas. He threw paper towels to a crowd and handed out torches, but told people they didn't need them (94 per cent of people are still without power) and told Puerto Rico it had cost the US lots of money.

Hmm.

Having been on the island for about a week, John and I had completed our work and had begun looking for a way back to the US mainland. Getting a commercial flight out of San Juan was proving impossible, so for the moment, we were stuck.

I sat in my hotel room watching with horror the unfolding events in Las Vegas

Communications in Puerto Rico are still scant, but in the capital, mobile phone service has returned and tends to be better in the middle of the night when few people are up.

I took both the mobile phones I was carrying out onto the dark balcony above the Atlantic and began making phone calls, waking staff in DC and planning coverage with my boss in Sydney.

It goes without saying covering a mass shooting like the one in Vegas is something no-one wants to do. The usual assignment challenges come with deep-seated frustrations about the event itself.

For all of us, there's a repeated, lingering question: Why is this happening? How can this be happening again?

And then there are the deep oceans of grief for those affected that we bear witness to while we try to do our work. No bureau chief wants to send staff on an assignment like that, and yet we do, over and over. This is the second "worst mass shooting in modern American history" since I've been living in America.

The nation, sadly, is becoming desensitised. It's inevitable. Each time the coverage plays out the same way: What happened? Who was the shooter? Who were the victims? Then the President visits, the funerals begin, and the media packs up and goes home.

For the families and friends and those who were there, it's never over. For us, it's different, but it never leaves us either.

The President and First Lady visited Vegas and there were several moving moments, including this one:

And this:

A whole pack of comfort dogs also went to Vegas, bringing smiles to the faces of a lot of really sad people.

Will the Las Vegas massacre change anything?

Well, the NRA, the Trump administration and Republicans are all talking about at least talking about banning or regulating "bump stocks", the devices used by the gunman to convert semi-automatic rifles into rapid-fire automatic weapons.

Here's the NRA statement on the subject:

This is significant given the usual response to these heinous events is to block any and all efforts to tighten controls on guns.

However, given automatic weapons are already banned in the US, it would still be a minor tweak which ignores a much bigger problem around the sheer number of guns, their availability, why people even need/want semi-automatics, and the total inability of politicians to come together to look at tightening background checks and the like.

In general, Australians and Americans have totally polarised views on this stuff.

Suffice to say, don't get your hopes up.

ICYMI, there were other things happening this week

A cabinet secretary resigned

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned after inquiries into his use of private and government planes revealed he had charged taxpayers more than $US1 million since May.

The seven-term congressman is the first cabinet secretary to step down from the Trump administration.

The Secretary of State denied he threatened to quit

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson remains in the administration after reports claimed he once called the President a "moron" and had threatened to quit.

Washington was on edge when Mr Tillerson called an impromptu press conference, but he delivered a message of support for the President through the media, a strategy that has proven effective for senior members of the administration in the past.

Oh, and he denies he's considered resigning.

Foreign relations committee chairman Bob Corker had this revealing response afterwards:

A Republican representative resigned

House Republicans have lost another member from their ranks, with the resignation of Pennsylvania congressman Tim Murphy.

The resignation came just 24 hours after Mr Murphy announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. The pressure to step down followed a report in the Pittsburgh Gazette that the married anti-abortion congressman had pressured his mistress into having an abortion after thinking she had fallen pregnant.

I don't have a lot more to add this week, it's all been sad

I'll just finish by saying, there's ANOTHER hurricane that may hit the US mainland — this one's called Nate.

But in nicer news from The Weather Channel, this radar image is just butterflies!

Until next week — Suerte Puerto Rico and Las Vegas.