February 4, 2009 Edition

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Ice storm disaster brings out the best

John Bland

Not unlike Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," the ice storm of January '09, with its destruction and power outages, has been both the best of times and the worst of times.

The freezing rain left a thick coat of ice on all that it touched. After the storm, the branches and power lines glistened like prisms in the early morning sun. The ice-covered ground sparkled as if sprayed with diamonds.

With this beauty, however, came the crashing of trees, limbs, power poles and power lines as the weight of the ice became too heavy for them to hold up. One fellow described the ice as "frozen Agent Orange." Downed limbs, trees and power lines fell across streets and yards, caused damage to structures and vehicles and darkened the countryside as all electrical power was lost.

As the sun went down, whole towns looked cold, dark and forlorn. We went into survival mode, searching for ways to take care of our basic needs, such as warmth, food, a shower and clean clothes. That's also when many groups and individuals went to work to help others, and utility crews flocked in to start the process of re-powering our towns.

Our people manned shelters, cooked for others, donated food, shared generators and supplies and helped each other clean up fallen limbs and trees. Fire and police departments went into action, while churches and communities banded together. Family took care of family, and neighbors helped neighbors. Strangers also helped strangers and got acquainted in the process.

Surviving in a disaster is not fun or easy, but in the surviving we have discovered our strengths and weaknesses. We have learned to be patient, how to improvise and cope. We have been taught not to take the basic comforts of life for granted. We have been reminded how much we need and are interdependent on each other.

One might also say, a disaster brings out the best and worst in people. However, much to the credit of our area citizens, it appears by far that this disaster has brought out the best in us - a warm and caring neighborly spirit.

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