In the wake of last week’s storm, there was a lot more talk than normal from people commenting on the neighbor-helping-neighbor attitudes they had seen on display in the days after the storm.
I expect such things happen every time there is a storm of significant proportions, but, for whatever reason, people I spoke to over the weekend and later in the week seemed to come back to that.
One person I spoke to suggested that, perhaps, social media had something to do with it. With cell phones capable of doing all they can do these days, even power outages that last a few days can’t stop the free flow of communications. In some of the social media groups I belong to, I saw the same thing. People offering friends and neighbors a chance to come to their house and shower or get a meal or a hot cup of coffee.
Last weekend’s storm wasn’t historic by any means, though any storm that causes widespread power outages does catch your attention more than the average snowfall. Duke Energy had thousands of people fanned out across the state trying to restore power as quickly as they could.
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Like many others, we got word that our power could be off until as late as Monday night. That thought paralyzed me a bit because I knew the NFL playoff games were set for Sunday. Mercifully, the power was restored to our home by mid-afternoon on Saturday and our football viewing was never seriously threatened.
For many of us who lived in the Triangle in 2005, however, we can happily report that this most recent storm wasn’t the worst thing we’ve ever seen. That year, a thin layer of ice coated roads, making travel nearly impossible, stranding children and teachers at schools overnight and forcing some people to seek shelter in the unlikeliest of places. One of my favorite stories from that storm – and remember our neighbor-helping-neighbor theme – came from a lady whose car ran out of gas on Capital Boulevard in front of the Golden Nugget, a bar that matches perfectly the definition of a honky-tonk.
The folks who run the place waived the “membership fee” and welcomed the woman and her baby in. One of the patrons at the bar walked to the convenience store next door and bought some baby formula and the whole crowd - bartenders, drinkers, mom and baby, spent the night in the bar. The only bad part of that story is that the baby was too young to remember the experience, though I’m sure his parents will recall that story for years to come.
Thankfully, there were no stories of people getting stranded in out of the way places – unless you count airport travelers – because of this storm. But people in our neck of the woods did what they ought to do in times of trouble. They helped each other. They made sure people had their basic needs met. The suits in Raleigh can talk all they want to about how good roads and good schools make this region a hotbed of growth. They can point to the job engine that is the Research Triangle Park.
But I would suggest that even if those things first draw people to our region, the thing that keeps people here for the long term is our friendly, gregarious nature. Sure, we all have busy lives. We all look out for ourselves first. But when the going gets tough, it’s nice to know that someone in our neighborhood, our church or our workplace will stop what they are doing and check on us.
You can’t put a price on that and I suspect economic development types rarely hype that characteristic. But they would only have to spend a few minutes talking to real people to find out that’s what makes living here a big deal.