CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."
Charles Dickens' reference to life during the French Revolution could well apply to the experience of 300,000 of my fellow West Virginians dealing with the recent water contamination crisis.
It has brought out both the best and the worst in us.
And to think that two-thirds of the world lives without running water every day is pretty sobering!
Our up-close-and-personal glimpse of this reality came crashing down on an ordinary Thursday evening a couple of weeks ago. News of the chemical leak into our water supply spread like wildfire.
To say that panic set in might be an understatement. Grocery stores and convenience stores were stripped of bottled water within a couple of hours. Not a box of baby wipes was to be found. Nor an ounce of hand sanitizer.
I saw one news report of customers loading up their grocery carts with bottled water and dashing to the parking lot to load their cars -- without even stopping to pay cashiers!
You've heard plenty about the challenges and unanswered questions. So, to mitigate one of my often quoted statistics -- that 70 percent of the information we hear in our everyday lives is negative -- I'd like to focus on some of the positives that have come out of this situation.
Here's a silver-lining example. Michelle, our in-house accountant, was dealing with her mother's scheduled surgery on those fateful days of Jan. 9 and 10. Her mom was admitted to the hospital on the 9th, having undergone all the preoperative tests earlier in the day to be ready for surgery first thing on the morning of the 10th. Her pastor and his wife had made the two-hour journey from Bluefield to Charleston to support her.
Because of the water emergency, however, instead of having the surgery, Michelle's mother was discharged at the crack of dawn Jan. 10. And Michelle drove her mother back to Bluefield (while juggling the no school/no day care dilemma with her husband, Eric, and their three children). The silver lining: Unprompted, Michelle had loaded her car with bottled water and brought back enough supplies for our office and employees, as well as other friends in need.
Neighbors helped neighbors. Relatives and friends took one another in. I've never heard so many offers of showers and meals from those who had clean water in other areas. People got creative and resourceful -- even if they were a bit cranky.
The news media and social media did a great job of keeping everyone updated of the frequent government briefings and other information as it became available. And then, after several days, attention turned from individual situations to the community at large and the domino effect of mandated business closings. Here are a few examples: