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Some reflections on an ill wind named Irma

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Dick Yarbrough

It is hard to know what to write about when you have been through the likes of Irma. Maybe it was “only” a tropical storm when it hit Georgia and not the powerful hurricane that ripped through Florida, but it was bad enough as many of you can attest. I will return to my acerbic roots soon, I promise, but not today. Nothing funny about disasters.

If Irma accomplished anything besides tossing trees on houses, ripping off roofs, bringing down power lines and generally scaring us silly, she helped put things in perspective as well as bringing out our better side.

For me, she was a little late in her tutorial on perspective. Been there. Got that. It seems that I was one lucky soul following my recent bout with sepsis. I have been informed by medical professionals that the mortality rate for people “my age” (ouch!) is about 70 percent. One reason I am given for being among the 30 percent is because I was in excellent physical condition, given that I have my own home gym and work out an hour a day. (“My age?” Piffle.)

Not too long ago, I was at a small luncheon with Georgia’s senior senator Johnny Isakson. No political figure I admire more. He is a throwback to the days of another of my political heroes, Sam Nunn, who could reach across the aisle and get things accomplished for the good of those he serves. I could say more good things about Sen. Isakson but I will leave it with the fact that the Woman Who Shares My Name has little use for politics and those who practice that art form, except for Johnny Isakson. She loves him to pieces. You say a bad word about the man and she will hunt you down and ram broccoli up places you don’t even want to think about. You’ve been warned.

Sen. Isakson was asked at the luncheon what it would take to get us to come together again and be one nation. His answer was disturbingly simple: Another tragedy. He reminded us of our collective reaction to the 9/11 terror attacks. We were all Americans in the days that followed — anyone recall a bunch of stunned senators standing on the steps of the Capitol, holding hands and singing “God Bless America?” — until the shock wore off and we got back to our old whiny, selfish selves.

In no way do I compare Irma to that dark time except that for a few days she caused us to put aside our differences and emphasized our goodness. Even Donald Trump has shown signs of being presidential and the national news media hasn’t yet figured out a way to make that look like a bad thing. Give them time.

In Georgia, more than one million people were without power after Irma had made her appearance and subsequent exit. As of this writing, that number has been drastically reduced, thanks to Georgia Power and EMC repair crews working around the clock.

And applause to our public safety personnel across the state who have risked life and limb protecting us at the risk of their own lives during these dangerous times. We don’t appreciate them until we need them and we forget many of them and their families are also experiencing the hardships brought on by Irma.

A group that has made their usual positive difference during this and other disasters is the Georgia National Guard. These are citizen-soldiers — teachers, accountants, mechanics, police officers, doctors, etc. — who answer their call to duty when required. They don’t get enough credit for what they do.

High marks also to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and his staff for their coordination of all the agencies — local and state — involved in the aftermath of Irma. Think that is an easy job? Try it sometime. I have liked the quiet and assuring demeanor the governor has exhibited during the chaotic times before, during and after Irma. That’s why he earns the big bucks.

But most all, Irma has given us all a chance to do good deeds. Neighbors firing up their chainsaws and helping out their stranded neighbors. People lucky enough to have electricity preparing hot food for those without. Volunteer groups providing shelter to those needing it, including pets. The rest of us opening up our pocketbooks so that they can.

So, adios, Irma. You were an ill wind but you did remind us what is important. I wish we would never forget it.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at dick@dickyarbrough.com; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb