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Weathering the Storm
As we weather the aftermath of recent storms, perhaps Andy Griffith has been looking down on us with that signature smile of satisfaction that his character, Sheriff Taylor of “Mayberry,” proudly wore after everyone, often including himself, had achieved some new appreciation for family, friends or the fraternity of their community.
Over the last several days, while meeting with homeowners and business owners, our hard working and dedicated National Guardsmen and utility workers, I was reminded of those timeless television episodes, embodying the Golden Rule. I witnessed and heard numerous accounts of family helping family, neighbors helping neighbor, and yes, even strangers helping strangers. All of the extra hours and efforts of our emergency responders, volunteers and those working at our television and radio stations to provide assistance and information deserve our thanks. Seems like in the worst times, West Virginians and their caring nature shine the brightest.
It sometimes took Andy Taylor’s wit and wisdom, clever coaxing, Sheriff’s badge or Town Judge’s gavel to get the attention of the townspeople. But he knew that under the sometimes thick headedness, people were basically good souls. Like so many we know, whether as a father, friend, choir member, neighbor or champion of the community, Andy led by helping others lead, lifting the whole town’s spirits and abilities in the end.
Even in our largest cities in our small state, we can relate to the trials and triumphs quaint Mayberry experienced. Mayberry may not have faced the proportion of storms and their subsequent toll in the middle of a sustained tidal wave of heat. Certainly though, its citizens had their share of outside forces that combined to keep them engaged including everything from bank robbers to escaped prisoners.
Time and again, the town’s people benefitted from working together. It sounds so simple, but I don’t think any generation has had a premium on the simpler times. Life’s complexities and getting along, achieving and building together have always required leaders like Andy, but also depended on the dedication and common purpose of everyone else.
Like so many times before, West Virginians, once again, answered the call to action by calling on our character and time tested good natures to band together and help each other. While we all hope this is a once in a lifetime emergency event, it is fertile ground in which we can plant and grow seeds of opportunities for future statewide emergency responses.
The size and scope of this recent storm has certainly stymied the response mechanisms upon which we have traditionally relied. When coupled with the struggles involving power outages many families faced last winter after a wave of snow storms, the costs financially and emotionally mount up.
I am coordinating closely with Federal, State and local officials to get water moving to where it is most needed. It is our most essential staple and one we in West Virginia are used to having in surplus.
After we are back up and running, I think it would be useful to explore how we might address vulnerabilities in the electric grid that increasingly serves as a lifeline for entire communities, as well as, giving thought to our emergency stockpiles and evacuation plans. Our most basic infrastructure needs up to date and secure backup systems. Let’s face it, the longer families are without power, the more volatile health issues become, especially in a sustained hot spell like this one.
Andy Griffith’s passing leaves behind a body of work that will weather the forces of the ages. Generations of West Virginians have been entertained and enriched by his little lessons in humbleness and character building. They are lessons that could lead some good Sunday school discussions, as well as some emergency response efforts. Let’s hope we never get too old to learn, nor tire of seeking help from all quarters to find ways to work together, especially if those lessons also warm our hearts and bring us a hearty laugh or two.
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) represents West Virginia’s 3rd District
For more information contact: Diane Luensmann (202) 225-3452