They can make fun of us if they want. Georgians know that grace and generosity are more important than blame. While others may make fun and cast blame, the important stories are not about how weather happens, snow comes and we get caught in traffic jams for hours or how we abandon cars and pick them up a day to two later. The real stories are about strangers handing out food and water, stores and restaurants welcoming those who are stranded, providing them shelter for the night. They are of neighbors getting together for large dinners, friends walking miles to join and connect with others.
Strangers helped push cars, and friends connected with friends at home and with other friends stranded nearby, creating a network of helpers and hospitality. While the nation (and Jon Stewart) made fun of Atlanta's response to the snow on Jan. 28, those of us living in the hospitable South know that the real story was about individuals reaching out to others with hospitality to help and the hope that remains.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat, have forged a working relationship that benefits both the State of Georgia and the City of Atlanta. Both men support the improvement of the Savannah Harbor, working to get federal funding pegged to 2013 dollars rather than the 1996 dollars originally authorized. Both were supporters of the Traffic Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax referendum that failed in 2012 and would have improved the metro area's mass transit system.
Despite their positions on opposite sides of the aisle, Deal and Reed also share supporters. "These two gentlemen deserve a second term because of all the great things they've accomplished in their first term together," said Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, last spring.Their close working relationship was in view when the snow hit Atlanta two weeks ago. They were at the Ritz Carlton in downtown Atlanta, where Georgia Trend Magazine was bestowing its 2014 Georgian of the Year Award on Reed. A chance event, but one that will provide both of them with much needed political cover from the fallout of Snow Jam 2014.
As for my family, our experience was uneventful. Our children were released early from school at 1:30 p.m. on that Tuesday. Our school is only 1.5 miles from our house, but I left 30 minutes before they were to be let out, just in case. The four-lane road just outside our neighborhood, which runs parallel to a major interstate, was packed. It took me 40 minutes to get to the school and 40 minutes for us to get home. My husband, who had left work early to attend a friend's father's funeral services, got home in just a couple hours.
We were the lucky ones.
It took a friend five hours to drive the 16 miles from the Atlanta Airport to a school two miles from our house. At that point, he decided to abandon his car and hike to our home in the dark. Other neighbors abandoned cars, had friends pick up their children from schools and rescued children from school buses that were stuck in the snow.
Themes of hospitality, help and hope have emerged from the stories of those stuck all night in their cars and of the many who diverted to friends' houses.
Today, as I write, the weather in Atlanta has once again taken a turn for the worse. This time, ice is falling instead of snow. Deal and Reed have both been working to ensure that preparations have been made to deal with the weather. Power crews have been brought in, schools were preemptively closed, and a state of emergency has been issued.
How this second wave of weather turns out, we will have to wait and see. Weather happens. But, regardless of the weather, I know that Georgians will continue to be hospitable, help others and hope.