Some reflections on an ill wind named Irma

The Catoosa County News - - COMMENTARY - Dick Yar­brough

It is hard to know what to write about when you have been through the likes of Irma. Maybe it was “only” a trop­i­cal storm when it hit Georgia and not the pow­er­ful hur­ri­cane that ripped through Florida, but it was bad enough as many of you can at­test. I will re­turn to my acer­bic roots soon, I prom­ise, but not to­day. Noth­ing funny about dis­as­ters.

If Irma ac­com­plished any­thing be­sides toss­ing trees on houses, rip­ping off roofs, bring­ing down power lines and gen­er­ally scar­ing us silly, she helped put things in per­spec­tive as well as bring­ing out our bet­ter side.

For me, she was a lit­tle late in her tu­to­rial on per­spec­tive. Been there. Got that. It seems that I was one lucky soul fol­low­ing my re­cent bout with sep­sis. I have been in­formed by med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als that the mor­tal­ity rate for peo­ple “my age” (ouch!) is about 70 per­cent. One rea­son I am given for be­ing among the 30 per­cent is be­cause I was in ex­cel­lent phys­i­cal con­di­tion, given that I have my own home gym and work out an hour a day. (“My age?” Pif­fle.)

Not too long ago, I was at a small lun­cheon with Georgia’s se­nior sen­a­tor Johnny Isak­son. No po­lit­i­cal fig­ure I ad­mire more. He is a throw­back to the days of an­other of my po­lit­i­cal heroes, Sam Nunn, who could reach across the aisle and get things ac­com­plished for the good of those he serves. I could say more good things about Sen. Isak­son but I will leave it with the fact that the Wo­man Who Shares My Name has lit­tle use for politics and those who prac­tice that art form, ex­cept for Johnny Isak­son. She loves him to pieces. You say a bad word about the man and she will hunt you down and ram broccoli up places you don’t even want to think about. You’ve been warned.

Sen. Isak­son was asked at the lun­cheon what it would take to get us to come to­gether again and be one nation. His an­swer was dis­turbingly sim­ple: An­other tragedy. He re­minded us of our col­lec­tive re­ac­tion to the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks. We were all Amer­i­cans in the days that fol­lowed – Any­one re­call a bunch of stunned se­na­tors stand­ing on the steps of the Capi­tol, hold­ing hands and singing “God Bless Amer­ica?”— un­til the shock wore off and we got back to our old whiny, self­ish selves.

In no way do I com­pare Irma to that dark time ex­cept that for a few days she caused us to put aside our dif­fer­ences and em­pha­sized our good­ness. Even Don­ald Trump has shown signs of be­ing pres­i­den­tial and the na­tional news me­dia hasn’t yet fig­ured out a way to make that look like a bad thing. Give them time.

In Georgia, more than one mil­lion peo­ple were with­out power after Irma had made her ap­pear­ance and sub­se­quent exit. As of this writ­ing, that num­ber has been dras­ti­cally re­duced, thanks to Georgia Power and EMC re­pair crews work­ing around the clock.

And ap­plause to our pub­lic safety per­son­nel across the state who have risked life and limb pro­tect­ing us at the risk of their own lives dur­ing th­ese dan­ger­ous times. We don’t ap­pre­ci­ate them un­til we need them and we for­get many of them and their fam­i­lies are also ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the hard­ships brought on by Irma.

A group that has made their usual pos­i­tive dif­fer­ence dur­ing this and other dis­as­ters is the Georgia Na­tional Guard. Th­ese are cit­i­zen­sol­diers – teach­ers, ac­coun­tants, me­chan­ics, po­lice of­fi­cers, doc­tors, etc. – who an­swer their call to duty when re­quired. They don’t get enough credit for what they do.

High marks also to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and his staff for their co­or­di­na­tion of all the agen­cies – lo­cal and state – in­volved in the af­ter­math of Irma. Think that is an easy job? Try it some­time. I have liked the quiet and as­sur­ing de­meanor the gov­er­nor has ex­hib­ited dur­ing the chaotic times be­fore, dur­ing and after Irma. That’s why he earns the big bucks.

But most all, Irma has given us all a chance to do good deeds. Neigh­bors fir­ing up their chain­saws and help­ing out their stranded neigh­bors. Peo­ple lucky enough to have elec­tric­ity pre­par­ing hot food for those with­out. Vol­un­teer groups pro­vid­ing shel­ter to those need­ing it, in­clud­ing pets. The rest of us open­ing up our pock­et­books so that they can.

So, adios, Irma. You were an ill wind but you did re­mind us what is im­por­tant. I wish we would never for­get it.

You can reach Dick Yar­brough at dick@ dick­yarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, At­lanta, Georgia 31139 or on Face­book at www.face­book.com/dick­yarb.

Philoso­pher & pun­dit

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