They came rolling in like Cox’s Army on wheels. Only there were more of them! They came from Birmingham, Raleigh, Farmington and old San Antone. Michigan sent a bunch. And Illinois. Arkansas. Mississippi. Tennessee. South Carolina. And of course, Florida and Georgia
There were more bucket trucks than a body could count. And maybe as many pickups. Some pulled trailers holding long, straight creosote poles. And all came with the mandatory chainsaws and orange traffic cones. They arrived in groups, convoys, waves and brigades. And on they came….
We’d never seen anything like it!
And then again, we’d never lived through a category 4 hurricane either.
We stood in our debris filled yards the morning after and whispered in our hearts, “Where do we start?” and “How can this ever be fixed?” We looked at utility poles bent to 38 degrees and shook our heads in despair. We saw giant pines flopped across power line after power line and felt, “Will it ever be like before?”
No one in Port St. Joe was throwing in the towel. Not by a long shot! But we had eyes. You only had to open them in any direction to know we were in trouble.
And on they came…..
They looked like regular folks. There were young ones. And older men. Big fellers and smaller, wiry guys. Some wore jeans and snap button shirts. I saw a lot of Carhartt. The mandatory hard hat was ever present. As were the Red Wing work boots.
By day two they were in full swing. None of us had any clue as to how they got here so fast. This hurricane just happened! And to say they hopped right to it would be the quintessential understatement of the century!
We did wonder how you organized such a mass effort. It near ’bout defies belief that men from across twenty-eight states could show up in what looked to be a power grid logistical nightmare on steroids……and seemingly fall right into place.
If me or you had been in charge, there would’a been a sixteen bucket truck pile up at every other intersection!
I stood in my front yard and waved at five bucket trucks and an auger heading south. Only to wait a minute or so and applaud as a pole truck, seven bucket trucks and Duke Energy pickup flew past in the opposite direction. If you think ants work on a fast and furious scale, you should have seen these “electric” people going about their business!
I saw nine trucks one afternoon in a two block section downtown. Each was at a separate pole and each had a lineman lifted up to a transformer working their magic. That scenario played and replayed all over town. They never stopped. They directed traffic past the orange cones, waved at the kids and kept a watchful eye on the work going on high above. They were courteous, friendly but they didn’t engage much in small talk. They were on a mission!
And our town took notice. We had been certainly, and understandably, dazed by the situation. Doubts and unanswerable questions raised their ugly heads in our precious corner of the universe. But we had men here who knew how to fix a major problem for us…..and more importantly, they were doing it!
You talk about a confidence builder! It went WAY BEYOND getting our electricity back on I can tell you that. These guys had hustled down here from all over the United States and gave “perfect strangers” every ounce they had to get us back up and running again!
As soon as this picture came into focus we began to call out to each one of them, “Thank you for coming to help us.” They smiled, nodded or waved politely as if they were just doing their job. Yeah right! They can play like it was “business as usual” or just “time and a half” for them……but you’ll never convince anyone in this town of that!
We were told the day after Hurricane Michael ripped through it would take at least two to four weeks to get the electricity back on……or maybe longer. Some experts speculated a month. Others thought “by the first of November.” It took these God sent specialist FIVE DAYS……
If they had notified us they were leaving, we would have lined the streets and given them a standing ovation as they convoyed away. They will never know, or fully understand, what they have done for us.
And I don’t think we can live long enough to ever pay them back…..