A week ago, when the big blizzard was just getting started, it was easy to write about it with humor. This week, not so much.
Oh, there’s no problem finding the lighter side based on just our own experience. We were incredibly fortunate. Our power was only out for one morning, plus two other short intervals. We didn’t have any trees fall on our house, damage our cars, or block our driveway. We didn’t have any medical emergencies or food shortages. We didn’t even run out of library books.
Basically, for us the storm was like a weekend retreat at an isolated discount spa. It featured nice towels, reasonably hot water, remarkably average food, and clean sheets if you wanted to change them yourself. Its most noteworthy offering was its unique exercise program. Snow shovels were provided by the management; guest were required to furnish their own snowpants and boots.
For a great many people, though, this storm was nothing to laugh about. There’s been enough said and written about its impact that I don’t need to add any more. The power outages, the broken trees, the damaged buildings, and especially the heartbreaking loss that puts everything else into perspective—the financial and emotional disaster of the thousands of dead cattle and sheep.
Of course, there are always a few people looking for someone to blame, like the complainers who seem to think the snowplows should hit their streets as soon as the first snowflakes do. Or the ones who don’t seem to grasp that rebuilding power lines takes time, especially when the work is complicated by deep snowdrifts, mud, and downed trees.
Many, many more, however, cope without drama. They dig themselves out and put themselves out to help their neighbors,. Like the volunteers with snowmobiles taking oxygen and other supplies to stranded people with medical needs. The unsung heroes with tractors plowing out their neighborhoods. Or the crews out working long, long hours and days to clear roads and restore power.
A columnist for the Rapid City Journal, Michael Sanborn, wrote a piece after the blizzard praising the way people came together to help each other. I agreed with most of what he said. Except this: “The western South Dakota community has shown our resilience. Had this happened in New York or Washington, it would still be the nation’s top story, because they aren’t as tough as we are.”
What nonsense. I somehow doubt he would say that in person to those who lost homes, businesses—and loved ones—in superstorm Sandy. When it comes to coping with disasters, there’s no difference between South Dakota, Haiti, Oklahoma, New York City, or anywhere else. Ultimately, we’re all part of the same community. The support and help we give each other is what helps make us so tough and resilient.
That’s why we keep shaking our heads and getting back up when Mother Nature—who can be a harsh and unforgiving old crone—has whacked us again. That’s why, when the storm is over, so many people matter-of-factly set about cleaning up the mess. And why so many of them say, and mean it, “It could have been worse.”