February 4, 2009 Edition

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We are greateful for many things

John Bland
Publisher

We worked last Tuesday with a single-minded focus to complete last week's issue of The TD before electrical power was lost. As predicted, the freezing rain had begun falling the night before and continued to fall the following day and night. Parts of town, including our house, had lost power during the day last Tuesday, but we continued to have electricity at the office.

Around 6 p.m., our Internet connection seemed to be failing as we were electronically sending our final two pages to The Jonesboro Sun's printing department. That's when we lost our power. By then, everything was coated with the thick ice.

After a little waiting and debate, staffer Nathan Hibbard offered to take our computer server to his house, where he still had electricity and Internet, and send the last two pages from there. He did this, and it worked.

Renee, Anna and I went to the Polar Freeze, which by then was the last eating establishment in town with power. Lots of other people went there, too. In fact, they had to quit taking orders at some point due to the onslaught of people.

While our house was dark, we still had a bit of warmth, and so went day one of the ice storm and the first night without electricity.

******

The TD crew reported early Wednesday morning to a cold office. Rennard Cooper and his wife, Shirley, had picked up our newspapers in Jonesboro, and we began the distribution process. We soon found out that the whole area was without electricity and that there was nothing open and no place to distribute the newspapers. Our staff went home by 10 or 10:30 a.m.

Renee, Anna and I drove around taking photos and being amazed by all the beauty and damage created by the ice. We tried cooking on our gas grill, but as our pastor said, the food cooled by the time we could get it in the house and eat it.

The house continued to get cooler, but with lots of covers, sleeping was still comfortable.

On Thursday, Rennard and Shirley delivered newspapers to the few businesses that we found to be open. We attended the visitation and funeral in Jonesboro of the father of a good friend. The funeral home had electrical power and provided warmth. A few restaurants in Jonesboro were open for hot meals.

******

We took much-needed showers at the homes of family members with heat and hot water. Good neighbors helped us with yard cleanup, while others offered us anything we might need.

On Friday, we distributed more TD's as we found other businesses open, and our staff completed the labeling and mailing out of our subscriber copies.

We visited several shelters, took more photos, talked to people and were warmed by the community spirit of many individuals and groups working at the Walnut Ridge Community Center, First Baptist Church, Hoxie shelter and at the Black Rock Fire Department. At Lawrence Health Services, the employees went above and beyond to help people in need.

All this time, Pam Moody of Entergy kept us posted on the progress being made in the restoration of power. We watched as a utility crew from Fort Myers, Fla., spent the better part of Sunday replacing a service pole and power lines in my mother's backyard.

******
As Sunday evening came, we learned that power might still be days away for the office. Gretchen Hunt, Angie Skimahorn, myself and others brainstormed for alternate sites to put together this week's edition. We needed power and close proximity to our office. My mother's house, now with electricity was an option, and Terry Kelley offered space at his office.

Janice Hibbard found the ideal spot that we needed thanks to the good people at First National Bank. We are grateful to Milton Smith and the bank personnel for their hospitality. I am also grateful to our staff for their ingenuity and hard work.

While one crew was putting together news and ads at the bank, another crew gathered inserts in our cold office. Two others printed labels and did bookkeeping at staffer Tammy Whitehead's mother's apartment, while we ran back and forth between locations.

******
This ice storm and the aftermath have been a challenge for everyone, but people have risen to the challenge. We apologize to our customers and associates that we have been difficult to contact without the use of our telephones or e-mail. At some point we decided to focus on putting out a special issue about the ice storm of January '09. We hope you enjoy this edition, but we also look forward to getting back to business as usual. Thank you for your patience, and we thank the many people who have been such good friends and neighbors to us.

It is now early Tuesday morning, and just a few hours ago power was restored to our office. Most of the area is still without power, but more areas are getting power restored each day. For this recovery and for the ability to put out last week's and this week's editions, we are thankful and taking very little for granted.

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