Snowpocalypse 2014: Not Just Another Day for Atlanta

walking dead

I’m a 24-year-old Atlanta native, and I can honestly count on one hand the number of times that I have seen snow that actually stuck on the ground. Although I may not be all that experienced with severe winter weather, I have seen my fair share of obstacles in life. I have learned time and time again that adversity reveals character. Yes, Atlanta was faced with an event that quickly escalated to an emergency, but we also responded to the challenge in positive ways that surprised even ourselves.

After spending several hours in my car during my noon commute that should have taken fifteen minutes, I arrived at my apartment and quickly realized that I was extremely fortunate to have made it home safely, and in such a timely manner. When I heard stories from my loved ones who were stranded on highways and running out of gas, who were facing the very real possibility of spending the night on the side of the road, I gained immediate perspective about my situation. I didn’t complain, and I certainly didn’t make fun of anyone.

When skimming my Facebook newsfeed, I encountered several unsympathetic and demeaning posts from people who live elsewhere, most of them along the lines of “LOL Georgia! Get it together!” I held my tongue, but here is what I wanted to say to those folks:

If you drive to work in the snow uphill both ways each day, then good for you! Gold star! Many of us have no desire to do that whatsoever, which is part of why we live in Georgia.

All snarky comments aside, I kept hearing that argument—that snow is “just another day” for many people, and so we should have been able to cope with this storm without any issues.

Here’s the thing, though—this wasn’t just another day for us.

If you live in a region where it snows often, then you presumably have an elaborate winter wardrobe, a vehicle that can handle the conditions, and a local government that has salt trucks, snow plows, and sand bags on hand at all times.

You probably don your quilted North Face coat, pull on your insulated boots, turn on the device in your garage that heats up your car engine in order for it to start (yes, I recently learned that those do exist—how handy!), climb into your AWD vehicle, and make your “daring” journey down roads that have already been extensively salted and maintained, driving alongside people who are also accustomed to doing this every single day for months out of the year.

Imagine if you didn’t have that coat, those boots, that device, that car, that road maintenance, or those seasoned snow drivers. Now imagine that you typically travel on an eight-lane highway to get to most of your crucial destinations.

Two inches of snow would be chaos.

The local government did not spend taxpayer dollars to facilitate the storage of salt trucks for the entire city of Atlanta 24/7 for the same reason that I do not own a top-of-the-line ski jacket or a thermal sleeping bag. It just isn’t cost-effective or practical 364 days out of the year. (Actually, it’s far less practical than that, because it doesn’t even snow every year in Georgia).

Admittedly, it would have been ideal for schools and companies to have more notice to close before the storm hit, which is typically the protocol in Southern cities. No one is denying that.

It’s easy to blame others when we are in dire straits. It’s easy to say what should have been done in retrospect. As Atlantans, we simply weren’t prepared for this, individually or collectively.

On any other day, we would have left our offices at the usual time, listened to our usual music, dealt with the usual traffic, and kept to ourselves in our usual ways. We would have come home to our usual houses, eaten our usual dinners, and spent time with our usual people. We probably wouldn’t have given much thought to what anyone else was up to, because hey, it’s just another day.

Here’s the thing, though—this wasn’t just another day for us.

Instead of keeping to ourselves and going about business as usual, we rose to the occasion. As Atlantans, we set aside our own preoccupations and pulled together to help one another. Strangers offered rides, hot cocoa, coats, blankets, and food to others without thinking twice about it. Teachers stayed overnight at schools to take care of students whose parents were stranded in their cars. Over 55,000 people joined a Facebook group called “Snowed Out Atlanta,” offering shelter and resources to anyone who might be nearby. A baby was even delivered successfully amidst all the commotion. The countless acts of kindness that took place among strangers in those two inches of snow are nothing short of extraordinary.

Those two inches of snow may seem trivial to some of you, maybe even laughable. Those two inches of snow may not measure up to what you consider to be an emergency, but they undoubtedly revealed the depth of character of Atlantans. Those two inches of snow caused many of us to realize how many basic essentials that we take for granted each day. Those two inches of snow restored our faith in one another and reminded us of the resilience of our community. Those two inches of snow resulted in an outpouring of compassion that few cities have ever seen or will ever see.

For better or worse, this was not just another day for Atlanta.

 

Note: This blog originally appeared on Corus360.com

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