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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

#79 Receiving Help

Trees were pulled up by their roots (Photo: Jo_n_1970)
Continuing with the 100 life-enriching little nuances series ...

On June 27, 2008, around 5:00 pm, the sky got dark in Omaha – so much so that I turned on the television and heard we were in for a doozy of a windstorm. The weatherman was trying to get viewers to warn people who were outside, saying they needed to find cover quickly.

The sky turned black. Debris slammed into my house. And I took cover with my cat in the basement. The storm didn’t last long – a couple of minutes maybe, but I couldn’t believe the devastation. Trees were pulled up by their roots. Power lines were down. And the city was a mess.

Neighbors flooded out of their homes to inspect the damage. I joined them. We chatted, shook our heads, and pointed to the damage. I walked across the street to check on an elderly neighbor to see if he still had electricity. Thankfully, he did. Most of the rest of the block didn’t.

[This YouTube video is a good representation of what the city looked like.]

Later I heard winds were estimated to have reached 80-90 mph and 126,000 people were without power around the city. The power company said it may take a week before the power was restored to all of its customers. Candles, batteries and flashlights became a premium at local stores. I had a hard time finding any of them, but I had a few candles and I was able to find one flashlight that came with batteries at a nearby Kmart.

One of my next door neighbors said he was going to try to find a gas generator. If he did, he said I could tap into it. My roommate and I spent the night at a friend’s apartment and the next day, I went to visit my mom. Knowing all of my food was spoiled and wondering where I might crash that night, I called my neighbor to see if he had been able to track down a generator.

He sounded anguished on the phone, but he said he found one and I was welcome to plug into it when I got home. As I approached my neighborhood, police cars blocked my street so I parked quite a ways from my house. As I walked toward my house, police officers were spread out all over my neighbor’s yard.

My neighbor saw me coming and said he couldn’t talk about what was going on, but he helped me run an extension cord from the generator into my house. He said he and his family had overloaded it already a couple of times, causing it to shut off, so he was cutting back on his usage. And he asked me to minimize my usage to one lamp – two at the most. I plugged in one lamp and it was plenty to make the house livable again.

The next day, my neighbor told me his son (who was an adult) had died and that’s why the police were there the day before. I’m not going to go into details here, but no foul play was involved. I cried with my neighbor over his loss. We embraced. And then it hit me. He not only took my call and agreed to help me during one of the darkest moments of his life, but after I got home he actually took time while the police where there to help me plug into the generator he had found.

It was an incredible act of kindness that moves me more every time I think about it. I couldn’t offer him anything in return, other than a heartfelt thank you. And that was enough because sometimes, people like my neighbor simply want to help another neighbor.

There is beauty in that.


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