Two guys from West Virginia have the right attitude

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 12, 2008

By Kevin Chiri

The two guys I was talking with on Thursday afternoon were from West Virginia.

They were among the visiting electric company workers—hundreds who come into our area to help out after a disaster.

And like all the rest—and this seems to be something many people don’t know—they were volunteers.

That’s right.

Did you know that all these different electric company people we suddenly have around us, fixing our power poles and electric lines, are volunteers from all over the United States?

In this case, I was talking with Robbie Tate from Charleston, W.Va., and Don Williams from Bluefield, W. Va. They were mechanics who ran all over the place fixing whatever trucks or cranes that were being used to work on the huge amount of electric problems we have here.

They worked with Appalachian Power Company, which sent 42 people down here to help. And as I said, they are all volunteers.

Don told me that a lot of people probably didn’t realize that the massive help we have gotten in the past for Katrina and Rita, as well as lately for Gustav, is a volunteer thing. Nobody is forced to go.

But for Don and Robbie both, they said they wanted to do it just to help out, and they said they have gotten their reward.

“People have been so nice to us, really everywhere we have gone,” they agreed.

Both of them did the same thing three years ago when they went to Texas for Hurricane Rita, and they said they would be leaving this area on Sunday and heading further down into Texas since Hurricane Ike was scheduled to hit the coast there today.

I chatted with them for just a couple of minutes before they left the convenience store parking lot where I met up with them. And I thanked them for coming.

I really get tired of hearing the criticism of the electric company during this time, all because some folks are too uncomfortable in their own homes where they obviously haven’t gotten power on.

And of course I’ve heard plenty of critics in the past week trying to say that certain elected officials had priority, and got their power on first. It all gets so tiring since it’s just not true.

Trust me, I’m in the same boat as many of you.

And yes, I especially can understand folks getting upset when they may even have people right across the street from them get power, yet theirs is not on. I really do get it. Nobody is happy about that.

But for people to start saying the electric company is playing favorites. Or that they aren’t trying their best to get everybody back on line is just something that I have no patience for.

I have spent time at Entergy both during the Katrina recovery, and during the Gustav recovery. I have spent lots of time at the parish emergency operations building during the days following Katrina and Gustav.

So guess what? I really do have a pretty good idea of what is going on.

When I see Entergy being criticized for not doing something fast enough, I just turn a deaf ear. I have seen those folks out at Entergy, and I have talked to the guys on the street working. You can’t convince me all of these people aren’t working as hard as they can, just as if it were to get their own power on.

I think the problem in all this is that we are human. Imagine that? We are human, and so deep down we are selfish. We want what we want…..for OURSELVES.

And I’m no different than the rest of you. When the power went out, I had a big groan. I kept teasing my wife all during the night on Sunday before Gustav hit telling her, “I’m just going to believe we won’t lose power.”

Yup, I was way off. I remember waking up about 6 a.m. on Monday and thinking, “Hey, the power is still on!” I lay in bed for about 10 minutes, and then it went off. Maybe that was God’s way of letting me know how little I really knew.

So I was like the rest of you who went without it, waited a week without the power, sweated it out miserably, and finally cheered as loud as anyone when it came on.

But for heaven’s sake people, can’t we quit the criticism of those who clearly are trying to do the most to help us?

Guys like Robbie Tate and Don Williams are an example of the attitude we should all have in these times. They could have stayed home, where they still have power and their loved ones. But they accepted a more difficult situation by saying, “hey, let’s go help somebody else.”

Think we could try that? It sure does make this kind of thing go by a lot easier, and you sure feel better about it when it’s all over.