Here's What I Think
What a long, strange trip it's been. But we are on the road to recovery. By the time you read this, I hope that everyone in Pocahontas County has power, water and is back to normal.
We've learned a great deal during this disaster. We lost some things, but maybe we gained some.
We lost Internet, so we didn't have Facebook, but we had face-to-face communication. We lost connection with the outside world, but we regained some connection with our neighbors at places like convenience and grocery stores and the Huntersville Spring.
We lost some of the food we'd saved in our freezers, but we allowed our stubborn Appalachian selves to be fed by our neighbors in Bath County and got assistance from Highland County, too. That strengthened a bond between our mountain counties that no state line can diminish.
Maybe some of that getting to know our neighbors again in line at the spring, or on porches, or checking on each other, or delivering meals, or sharing generators, or whatever else we did for each other can translate into a better place to live and work. Maybe we can understand where we ourselves fell short during this crisis and give a concession to those we think fell short in their duties.
Everyone I could see was working as hard as they could to formulate a plan, to maintain some kind of order, to make sure people were fed, had water and got medication and oxygen if they needed it.
As in any work situation, some people did more than others. As in any outside-looking-in situation, we may think we see slackers when we really don't know what's going on with them.
I had such a visitor from Frost last week. He seemed to think I needed to hold the county government accountable and "ask some hard questions" so I get "some hard answers."
While those guys are in crisis mode, I'm not asking questions about "why" and "how come." That can come later, if it's necessary. Personally, I'm waiting to see what they learned from this experience, what they implement when it's all said and done. And I have a great deal of confidence that they're going to have an emergency plan that includes the things we were missing this time around.
The stresses of the past week have shown me the best in people. I can't thank our family and neighbors on Douthards Creek enough for all the generator time, visits, offers of food and water, as well as finding the humor in the situation we all had upon us. I can't thank the Pocahontas County 911 Center enough for taking a beating from the storm and then the public, and continuing to serve. I can't thank the Division of Highways workers enough for clearing the roads so that travel was easier, if not easy, on Saturday morning. I can't thank the Pocahontas County Sheriff's Department enough for coordinating the food and water distribution and for keeping us safe, as well. I can't thank the volunteer fire departments and rescue squads and their leaders enough for keeping open their stations, distributing water, doing house-to-house checks and all the other things they did. I can't thank Mon Power, Frontier, the National Guard, the Red Cross, the churches and all the people who gathered to assemble meals enough for everything they did.
It wasn't perfect. Not at all. But it was a tremendous effort by some tremendous people.
Lots of Division of Highways personnel, emergency personnel, law enforcement and utility workers left their own problems at home while they took care of us. They worked long, hot, hard days. It didn't all happen as fast as we would have liked, or, I expect, as fast as they would have liked, either.
Here's a few shining stars-and these are only the ones I saw first-hand. I know there were others in other communities; please, please send in those names.
Blair Campbell at the Pretty Penny. Campbell opened her restaurant and her kitchen, in spite of the lack of power and cooked food for her neighbors. Free. For days. She and a crew of AmeriCorps interns from High Rocks and other organizations cooked food brought in by neighbors and food sent from the sheriff's department. Support her by buying a meal when you're in Hillsboro.
Charlie Wilfong at the Hillsboro Volunteer Fire Department and all his volunteer firefighters. You can read the story on page 1 to find out the details. If you live in that area, make sure your donation gets to them on time this year.
Shawn Dunbrack. Dunbrack assumed the role of OES director on Tuesday-Day 4. He went without sleep, without food for hours on end, without seeing his family for I don't know how long. Because every time I was out, I saw him out doing something. Every time his vehicle was at the 9-1-1 office, he was on the phone, hearing concerns, coordinating National Guard and many other chores. The county commission should make his new role permanent.
David Walton and Chris Cole. Chief Deputy Walton and Deputy Cole headed up the food distribution effort in Marlinton/Huntersville/Frost. They were busy all the time coordinating between these locations and with the Bath County Red Cross.
David Jonese. Jonese spearheaded a generator exchange so that people who didn't have power could borrow a generator from neighbors with electricity who were willing to lend theirs.
Allegheny Mountain Radio. What a huge effort to keep everyone informed during all this, trying to get in touch with people in charge when those people had little time to spare. They had updates and breaking news stories and communication about who had power and who was still without. Send a kind word and a donation to those men and women who worked on little sleep, but with great dedication to the task at hand.
Jaylee Doss, Kevin Bennett, Catlyn and T. D. Sparks and Tessa Knisely. These young people-and I'm sure there were more-took their summer vacation time to volunteer with their parents and grandparents to distribute food. They did my heart a bunch of good, as did everyone else who assembled and delivered those Red Cross meals.
If you have a complaint, and I'm sure there are lots of them out there because I've heard them, there's a time and a place for your suggestions, and I'm pretty sure there are some good suggestions, because I've heard those, too. Make them in good faith and not in anger, so that our leaders will listen in good faith.
Better yet, volunteer your time to be in a fire department, rescue squad or anywhere else that responds to emergencies. If you aren't able to fight fires or do ambulance runs, that's okay. Those departments have other things to take care of. Help out when they have fundraisers, go out when they have meetings and take them food and water, help out in any way you can. Most of all, make a donation to them in appreciation for their extraordinary efforts.
I hope that we've all learned something from this. Water conservation is of the utmost importance, for one. Everyone should operate like a journalist in this way-don't go to bed at night with less than a half a tank of gas in your vehicle. Keep fresh batteries around, and get a radio that operates off them so you can stay up-to-date with information. Have a hard-wired telephone that doesn't rely on electricity to operate.
And maybe we should begin to think like our great-grandparents did. Don't waste anything, particularly water and food.
There's one more thing we shouldn't waste-the goodwill toward our neighbors we've managed to build without the Internet this week.
Face-to-face really is better than Facebook.