Thus, this being Valentine’s Day, it seems only appropriate to comment on love ... of neighbor.
When disaster strikes it is expected that those close at hand will try to dig buried neighbors out of debris, rescue them from floodwaters and similar; even take them in for the night. Those in nearby communities and trained in public safety/rescue operations will typically rush to the scene unbidden and start assisting. This is a common response of humans reacting to other humans in immediate plight, both here, elsewhere in the nation and even the world.
It is somewhat less common for those not only living on the same block but at a considerable distance to both start showing up and keep showing up to do whatever they can, even once the day-after gawkers have departed. After all, that’s what local public-service and utility forces, government agencies, insurance companies, the Red Cross and similar are expected to handle.
The tornado hit on a Wednesday and by the next day there were already hundreds of volunteers showing up to do whatever they could ... cleaning up, bringing in food and so forth. They came unbidden, although plainly this initial reaction was heavily faith-based but of a human concern shared by the “secular humanists” among this small army.
BY THE FOLLOWING Saturday more than 1,000 volunteers — and certainly not all from Adairsville, itself a city of only about 4,000 — were on hand, largely to assist with the cleaning up of debris and similar “picking up the pieces.” Most such tended to be “ordinary folks,” mixed with others who knew they had needed skills like operating power equipment. Some even brought their own chain saws and such.
And they kept showing up daily with, by the second Saturday, more than 2,000 being reported on hand and the free “heavy lifting” had started to turn to actual repairs and rebuilding. That number grew as others of similar attitude, often from further distances and many of them from Greater Rome, had the time to organize their own volunteer forces and transportation to the scene: church groups, schools/colleges, Scout troops and so forth.
The outcome is that a largely spontaneous outpouring of assistance resulted in what Police Chief Robert Jones described as a recovery “moving at light speed.” Similarly notable, and reflective of a difference sometimes seen when some major city is hit by something similar and the National Guard has to be called out to preserve order, Jones reported that in the entire tornado aftermath only a single theft incident had been reported. Apparently nobody, resident or outside volunteer alike, had an inclination to take advantage of the misery of others.
Additionally, according to the Rev. Ken Coomer of the Adairsville Church of God that immediately transformed itself into a sort of headquarters for the volunteer efforts, these forces made up of community members and strangers have been “saving the homeowners thousands and thousands of dollars.” And, he added, this volunteer assistance would continue because “if you’re hurting, if there’s a problem, we’re going to try to fix it.”
ALL THIS has really been a laudable effort even though, to some extent, folks in Northwest Georgia tend to take such a massing of area/regional assistance as a response to be taken for granted. Indeed, and not long ago when similar nasty winds raked big portions of Floyd County, it was on display here.
That’s not meant to imply such doesn’t occur elsewhere. To some extent it has much to do with proximity. When Hurricane Sandy hit, one doesn’t recall great numbers of Californians (or Georgians) rushing to the Jersey Shore toting shovels and buckets of disinfectant. Rather, they reached for their wallets and checkbooks. The best instincts of people simply call upon them to do what they can.
Nonetheless, the sight of a massive outpouring of concerned neighbors willing to spend a day or more doing hard and often nasty physical work to help fellow beings represents more-intense levels of “giving” and “concern” alike. That most of this response came instantly, without anyone having to either plan or promote it, says even more about the overall quality of many of those whom all of us call “neighbors.”
It is also worth observing that in such “times of trouble” there is only so much the supposedly mighty forces of state (and sometimes federal) government can do. They concentrate, as they should, on restoring stability and transportation and law/order and tending to those in physical distress. The rest of it — both the recovery and the long period of rehabilitation to follow — have to come from the community itself and its larger family of neighbors.
The instant and unbidden nature of this outpouring of assistance, as well as its duration and signs of it continuing for as long as is necessary, say some exceptionally positive things about the place where all of us live.
LOVE THY neighbor? Well, maybe not everybody does but a lot of Northwest Georgians sure do. Maybe not everybody tries to show it, but a lot of us sure do.
The good folks, of all ages, living in and around Adairsville who showed their love and concern for others in the wake of this natural disaster deserve to be the special Valentine of the entire regional community.
Since it is impossible to hand them all a red rose this small token of appreciation will have to do.