One of the many remarkable aspects of the Eye of the Storm - facilitated and organized by Peninsula resident and business owner, Nanci Main - was the range of people that chose to spend a precious Saturday, on faith, talking to their neighbors.
Present were part-time residents, full-time residents, long-time residents, all manner of local officials and service representatives from mayors to firemen, a representative from Gov. Chris Gregoire's office, senior women who kept the food table stocked, and youngsters reading their storm narratives with their proud parents looking on from the bleachers.
The day was enhanced by the attendance of neighbors from the other side of the river: among the Oregonians present were Paul Benoit, Astoria city manager, David Hammock, station manager of KMUN and Kimberly Armstrong from KAST.
As Main said to many at the gathering, "We are a community with a river running through it."
And not once did anyone say "on the North End we..." or "on the South End we..." Everyone was touched by the storm, whether present for the fierce winds or not, and everyone was part of the community gathered in the Ocean Park Elementary School gymnasium as if for a home game.
Main's idea for an old-fashioned community gathering, complete with potluck casseroles, must have hit a nerve because the range of sessions hosted by attendees was equally impressive.
In one workshop on energy, hosted by Kathleen Sayce, PUD Commissioner Diana Thompson was repeatedly grilled, "What does 'exorbitant' mean?" when asked about the unfeasibility of burying major power lines. She promised to host a public forum including some tangible numbers and discussion of PUD plans for the future.
The session on fuel supplies and distribution was another popular one and clarified the need for designated post-crisis re-fueling stations powered by back-up generators.
Arborists are getting together to create a list of suggested trees for replanting in different terrains and circumstances to replace our many trees brought down in the gale.
Map Your Neighborhood is software that allows neighbors in a designated area to keep track of frail elders who have special medical needs, latch-key kids, and the household with the generator so that in an emergency what needs to be done and who can provide it is known. (If you would like to sponsor this activity in your neighborhood, call Stephanie Fritts at 642-9300, extension 3340, for a copy of the software.)
A suggestion was made that emergency sites, where residents and visitors would be able to get a hot meal and information, post a permanent sign with a special symbol (yet to be designed), similar to those Fall-out Shelter insignias that some of us grew up with in the 50's. With these markers in place, we can see where our gathering places are now and find them in an emergency.
Jean Ellevold, elder citizen and engaged volunteer at the Senior Center, wants to take the Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT) and be part of a corps of volunteers who can mobilize after a crisis.
A commonly-shared concern of some participants is that people will not follow-through on these excellent ideas. Action needs to be taken on these initiatives before we lose our sense of urgency.
This appears to be the key to capitalizing on the tremendous success of the forum- how to execute on the various and excellent suggestions for collaboration and action.
A few initiatives have a definite date: the HAM radio course will take place at the Long Beach Fire Hall from 7-9 p.m. on Feb. 6, 20, 27 and March 5. (There is no charge for attending but participants are asked to pick-up a copy of "The Gordon West Technician Manual.")
But other very good ideas are in need of champions. If you hosted a session that will have some definite follow-up activity, please let the Chinook Observer know so that it can be captured in the Community Calendar. Or send an email to Cate Gable at (firstname.lastname@example.org) and keep an eye out here for other details on upcoming classes and follow-up meetings.
We created our own storm of collaboration and communication at the Ocean Park school two weeks ago; let's keep the momentum going.
As Matt Winters said in last week's Editorial, "Ultimately it's all about people - tough, strong, generous and independent people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make this place a success."