Monday, September 22, 2008

Pepperspectives: Citizens Step Up To Windstorm Challenge

Last week was a challenging one for hundreds of thousands in our region.

The windstorm affected almost everyone, in many different ways. I for one had much of the siding from my house blown off and strewn all about. Others are just getting power back now. More than 10,000 of our less well off citizens came through the County (by Friday) to get food stamps to pay to replace the food they had lost. And, sadly, a handful lost their lives in truly tragic ways. Our prayers go out to them and their families.

But it was also a week that showed the best our community has to offer.

Neighbor helping neighbor (including my own neighbors helping me). Communities coming together. A heck of a lot of patience by so many, sitting in the dark night after night. Churches and families opening up and giving generously to those who were out of food, out of power, or just wanted a break from the darkness. And many public servants and private workers laboring night, day and all weekend to get us all back to normal.

You can judge individuals or a people by how they react to a challenge. While we didn't face the severity that other Americans did hundreds of miles south, this storm and the collective response by our citizenry showed just how strong a community of citizens we have.

No doubt, though, there is also much to assess, learn from, and improve from how government and the major institutions were prepared for and responded to this storm. From initial preparation, to the logistics of the response, to the communication with citizens of what was happening and what to do, we will conduct a comprehensive assessment, and gather public input as we do so. There is certainly much to improve.

We were fortunate in many ways last week. It wasn't too hot, and wasn't too cold. It didn't rain. The storm left as quickly as it came. After Sunday, the only challenge was simply cleaning up the mess.

Next time something unforeseen befalls us, we may not be so lucky. So we better be more prepared, and we will be. But from last week's experience, one thing we know we can count on is the community stepping up to the challenge.

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