Spring, it seems, has finally arrived, or so it seems. The gunmetal gray snow that has stood at the end of my driveway like a frozen monument has finally been vanquished, and the first anemic sparrow arrived back in my yard from parts unknown. I must admit he looks worse for his winter wear, but I was glad to see him.
To say that this had been a tough winter for us in “Da Region” is akin to saying the Titanic was a minor aquatic mishap.
For months it seems we have been held hostage by what our weather forecasters refer to as “polar vortex,” which most of us came to understand is a pleasant synonym for “Arctic death.”
Faced with this seeming eternity of frigid days, most of us resorted to the standard Northwest Indiana response to such a calamity (brooding and grumbling), yet if we looked closely enough, this winter also revealed something more positive in our human nature and our community character.
There is something about calamity that scratches off the veneer of our perfunctory personality and shows what truly lies beneath. Sometimes what we see there may be jolting, but occasionally we may be pleasantly surprised at what is there. Somehow it is the midst of difficulty and tragedy that we find what is best in ourselves and our community.
On Jan. 23, snow and frigid winds resulted in a massive traffic accident on Interstate 94 outside of Michigan City involving more than 40 cars and resulting in three fatalities. Motorists were trapped in their cars for hours in deadly temperatures.
However, the community spirit that emerged was awesome to see, as well as a gratifying view of how well governments from across our corner of the state, even across state lines, can work together. The reaction to this accident was immediate and decisive on the part of our governments. Emergency response resources from communities across Northwest Indiana converged on the area. Out of the immediate chaos there quickly emerged a centralized and focused response.
The commitment, professionalism and bravery of our first responders stood clear and bright on that day. Images of exhausted firemen and police officers, working for hours in unimaginable discomfort flooded the media, becoming a lasting part of the legacy of that day.
City buses immediately transport the uninjured to warmth and safety, several local restaurants donated food for all those affected, and at least one hotel offered free shelter to stranded victims.
What was less apparent was what was going on behind the scenes. The Disaster Command Center was flooded by offers from communities across the region offering resources. In many cases, local police forces were diverted to other communities whose officers were engaged on scene.
As tragic as the memory of that day remains, what has emerged from the legacy of that terrible, bitter day is a testament to the best of who we, as a region, can be. In the face of a seemingly unmanageable situation somehow we were brought together in one common cause of compassion and self-sacrifice.
Spring has sprung, and I will be glad to see the memories of this winter fade. However the next time I am tempted to throw my hands up at some example of seeming governmental insanity, or give in to cynicism over man’s inhumanity to man, I hope this one memory will remain — a day when we saw the best of who we in Da Region can be.