Tuesday, February 09, 2010
"Never let a crisis go to waste"
Wayne (sometimes known in the comment section of this and other blogs as "The Cajun") has been without electricity, heat and running water since late Friday night.
He told me that, the day before yesterday, he went out to his porch to get some snow and bring it into the kitchen so it would melt and he'd have water. Except, when he got up in the morning, it was still frozen.
He called his boss at Dos Locos (only the BEST restaurant in RB) who took him (and his landlady) to breakfast for a hot meal and then found them both temporary lodging with one of the staff. (A shout-out to Joe and Daryl - you guys are the BEST!) When I spoke with Wayne last night, he's now safe and sound - warm and hydrated.
Except that there's another Nor'easter on its way Tuesday night which promises to bring at least another 18-24 feet of snow to the Mid-Atlantic States and, depending on the progression of the storm and the area of New Jersey, any where from 12-18 inches of snow.
It's not New Jersey I'm concerned about. Oh, I'm not looking forward to the mess, but we can cope. We'll manage. We've got the infrastructure to provide the back up to managing the effects of the storm.
The last time a storm - or a winter - like this happened in Delaware was 102 years ago. They just aren't ready for it. It's not like folks are apt to keep snow blowers in the shed, just in case. Or, even the basics like snow shovels or ice melt - things you can get in any grocery store in New Jersey.
I was not too surprised as I left to head back to Jersey yesterday, to see how bad the roads were in my housing development. It was all packed snow and ice with occasional ruts of slush. We had been warned on television and radio news reports not to expect a "side street" to be given high priority in the clean up.
I was shocked when I got out onto the main roads. It was more of the same on my side street. Driving could only be described as treacherous. As I approached Route One, it was more of the same. At least, through Rehoboth Beach and Lewes.
The National Guard was out with large back hoes and dump trucks. When you're "The Nation's Summer Playground" you don't keep crews and equipment to deal with snow.
Besides, Rehoboth is still repairing the damage left over by the last hurricane. The board walk is under repair and the sand on the beaches still needs to be replenished.
I understand that the roads headed toward Bethany and Dewy Beaches were even worse.
As I got out of Lewes toward Milton, the roads got better. The closer I got to Dover Air Force Base, the road conditions improved considerably (remember, the storm hit Friday night through early Sunday morning).
There was no trouble at all once I got to Dover, and it was clear sailing from then on. Until then, however, it was a 'white knuckle drive' the whole way.
When I stopped at Perry's at the top of my street, the buzz was that there had been five storm related deaths in the area. One man froze to death in his own home.
Everyone at Perry's was singing the praises of the local EMTs who took care of a man in his early 40s who had a heart attack while shoveling snow. The street had not yet been plowed, so the EMTs carried their equipment in thigh-high snow to care for him in his driveway.
Once they got him stable, they CARRIED him on the stretcher back to the ambulance. In thigh-high snow. Up the street. About a quarter of a mile. I understand he's in stable condition at BeBe Memorial.
That's the spirit of a small community. Those men and women deserve a medal. As the story was being told, one elderly man took his hat off and put it over his chest as a sign of respect. I found myself deeply moved by that small, important gesture.
I suppose it's a bit of survivor's guilt on my part. I was only out of electricity and heat for nine hours. I still had running water, and a gas stove to make myself a hot cup of tea or to heat up a can of soup. I was also blessed to have a small gas furnace out in the sun room to keep me comfortable.
I had a neighbor to help me dig out my car. He did it because he wanted to help. I left him some money, anyway, in an envelope tucked securely under the windshield wiper of his car. I left him $40, which was all I had on me at the time. In NJ, what he did would have been expected to earn him $100. Easy.
I hope that was enough. I hope he isn't insulted by my gift. I'm sure he could use the money and is grateful for it. What he may not understand is that it is I who am deeply, deeply grateful for his help.
I worry about my friend, Wayne, and all the more than 60,000 people who still don't have electricity or heat and have been displaced from their homes. Please join me in prayer for them.
Please also pray for everyone who is involved in the recovery effort - the men and women of the National Guard, those who work for the utilities companies who are working around the clock to restore electricity and heat, as well as those who are working feverishly to clean up the side streets and make them safe for the police and paramedics to do their jobs.
No, it's not an earthquake or a tsunami, and the Delmarva Peninsula, while it has its poverty, is certainly not Haiti. Dangerous weather is dangerous weather and people, after all, are people.
If anything, this experience has opened my heart even more and encouraged me to give again to the recovery effort in Haiti. There's an expression in my business: "Pain touches pain." Human suffering anywhere causes every human heart to suffer.
So, prayers, please - especially as we prepare for yet another Nor'easter to come barreling up the Mid-Atlantic coast.
We will survive, and we'll learn some things about ourselves and the importance of community in the process. We might even rediscover the qualities of kindness and generosity. Even 'going the extra mile - or, quarter of a mile - in the snow!
Perhaps we'll regain a little respect for Mother Nature and redouble our efforts to care for Mother Earth.
Oh yes. And, maybe we'll learn again with a sense of awe and wonder about prayer.
What was that Rahm Emmanuel said? "You never want to let a crisis go to waste".
Somebody say, "Amen."