Morris: Bless the storm’s first responders

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Leo Morris

It was just last week when I announced my intention to embrace the joy of the Christmas season, “wherever I find it, even if I only stumble across it by accident.”

Little did I know that it would don a disguise and hide, daring me to find it.

My car wouldn’t start on a recent Wednesday, which was annoying for me, since it was my scheduled bridge day, and more so for my bridge partner, who had an hour added to his drive time after volunteering to pick me up and return me home. Such is modern life that not even card-playing buddies live near one another anymore.

I called AAA and had my car towed to the dealership, which informed me I had a nearly dead battery and an incipient oil leak. Not to worry, it would add only about $400 to my holiday expenditures, and just think of the gas I wouldn’t be burning through while my car was held captive.

Furthermore, I was stranded at home – literally stranded – while the temperature hit 9 below, the wind howled and the snow blew – well, you remember what last week was like. I should have been glad to at least be inside with sufficient food and other necessities, but a knot of anxiety kept me company for a day and a half.

What if my electricity went out? The last time I lost power for days – during an ice storm, also in December, several years ago – I packed the cat carrier and scooted off to a pet-friendly residence hotel in a part of town that still had electricity.

What would I do this time, with no car, no escape? How is it in the 21st century that we can go from self-satisfied comfort to dire isolation in a heartbeat?

But as the hours crawled by and the lights stayed on, I calmed down. I even took a measure of comfort from reports on TV of the legion of dedicated workers ready to jump into action.

I mean the first responders, and not just the usual unsung heroes – the police and firefighters and medical technicians ready to rush to our rescue when we fall victim to circumstances or do something stupid. I mean the state and city highway and street workers ready with their plows to open up the roads, the power company employees ready to get the lines back up, the grocery clerks managing the aisles against hordes of panicked shoppers. There was probably even an Uber driver or two ready to take a certain columnist to a brightly lit motel.

If we don’t take those people for granted, we do tend to keep them in the background of our consciousness, along with all the other people in our lives who are paid to deal with us. But when they’re needed, they are there, and bless them all.

I used to be one of those guys, you know, the ones on the front lines ready to roll when disaster strikes. Yes, children, it was during the Great Blizzard of ’78, when I was a reporter in Michigan City.

(Memo to Scott W., who posted rather snidely in my Facebook feed, “Really excited to hear about the stupid Blizzard of ’78 every time we get snow this winter.” Shut up and take your medicine, you silly child, or I’ll tell all your friends to text you about the Great Flood of ’82 every time it rains in Fort Wayne. Did you know it was young people who saved the city? Or so I’ve heard.)

Anyway, that ’78 storm was a true wrath-of-God, once-in-a-lifetime catastrophe of epic proportions. The wind howled in from Lake Michigan, piling snow many feet high in some places. Nothing moved, nobody left home. The city was paralyzed.

And yet, a tiny but hardy band of intrepid reporters and editors braved that ferocious onslaught and made it into work. In those pre-Internet, pre-cable TV days, people still depended on an actual newspaper for actual news. We might not be able to deliver it, but by God we were still going to publish one that day.

Hooray for us.

That reminds me. All that news about how bad last week’s weather was and how many people were marshaling to fight it came from a hardy band of news folks who somehow made it to the TV and radio stations to tell us how awful it was and how lucky they felt to make it in. Real news actually still matters. So, hooray for them, too.

And thank goodness it only lasted as long as it did. Had it gone on one day longer, we would have learned about how we bickered along our partisan divide over dealing with the storm. Red Staters say this and the other side is crazy, Blue Staters say that and the other side is just plain mean.

Mother Nature, the great unifier, if only briefly.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at [email protected]

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