by John Colgan-Davis
“For too long in this society we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.” — Joe Biden
Until recently, temperatures had been higher than normal, plants were still blooming, and snow was nowhere to be seen. The glory of the winter skies was still there, and we knew what season it was by looking up at night and in early morning.
That is still true. The stars and constellations are magnificent, the full moon came when it was supposed to, and at about 5:30 a.m., one can see a wonderful, rare event.
The planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter are seemingly in a straight line. This rare “alignment” occurrence is in the sky from now until Feb. 20, and it is a sight to behold. The skies have been in winter mode all along, and that alignment has only added to it.
But we finally got recent proof that it is winter with one of the largest snow storms ever to hit the area. For two days we were hit with steady to heavy snowfall, winds gusting up to 50 miles per hour and accumulations from 19 to 23 inches.
Neighborhoods were buried, transit was halted, folks were stranded, and life as we are used to came pretty much to a standstill. We had been warned, and people stocked up on eggs, milk, cereal, etc., and most of us just hunkered down.
We stayed inside wherever we were and prayed as we waited that we would not lose power, that trees and tides would not damage our houses, streets or apartments, and that we would once again get through this as we always seem to do.
Sunday revealed the damage and saw the region struggling with beginning the digging out and recovery. Plows worked the streets, transit workers, street workers and snow shovelers did their thing, and slowly, frustratingly, we accomplished things.
It was and is difficult. But one of the great things about all of this from my perspective is the way neighbors, strangers and people of all ages came together to help each other find solutions and meet the challenges.
One of the things I love about my West Mt. Airy neighborhood is the way we work together in a time of crisis. People of all ages helped shovel each other out, volunteered space in their yard and driveway to put the snow, helped shovel off walks of sick or elderly folks, pushed cars out of spots and more.
And that is how we regularly respond to snowstorms. Shortly after we moved into the area, we had a terrible storm in 1994. The people in our neighborhood got together and literally went block by block from one end of each street to the other, shoveling together to clear the street and free lots of cars.
Some folks made and served hot chocolate, coffee and snacks while others shoveled, and that experience cemented me to the neighborhood. We even set up a fund to hire a snowplow to come around during storms, and we still do this “help each other out” thing when there is a crisis. It is who we are, and it’s wonderful.
And I know that we are not the only neighborhood to do this type of thing. I have talked to lots of folks over the years who are fortunate enough to live in places or on streets that work the same way. And I am sure you saw newspaper coverage and TV stories about strangers helping dig people out and helping stranded travelers and more during Storm Jonas.
That connectedness and helpfulness of people is often something we take for granted until something likes this storm comes up, and the beauty and necessity of it is impossible to ignore.
We are brought face to face with the simple fact that as humans we need each other and that no one lives a good life totally by him/herself. Yes, my back hurts, and yes, traveling around is still a hassle, and yes, the effects of the storm are still there.
But there is also a warm feeling and an extended “Thank you” to my neighbors and friends for making the storm bearable and for making this such a wonderful place to live. I hope you all found the help you may have needed in dealing with the storm and that you are getting to experience the quiet wonders and power of community.
John Colgan-Davis is a long-time Mt. Airy resident, retired public school teacher and harmonica player for the rockin’ blues band, the Dukes of Destiny.