By Sen. Joel Anderson
At 3:38 p.m., on Thursday, Sept. 8, a massive power outage struck Imperial, Orange, Riverside and San Diego counties here in Southern California as well as hitting parts of Arizona and northern Mexico.
Millions of people would be without power, some for over 12 hours during a brutally hot stretch of summer. Schools would be closed, airports shut down, traffic snarled and many other problems would result, ranging from minor inconveniences to outright emergencies.
Almost everyone’s first thought was that it might be the work of terrorists as the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was just a few days away. Thankfully the problem stemmed from a simple human error and the failure of some back-up systems at a power substation in North Gila, Ariz.
I was in Sacramento at the State Capitol during the power outage as it was the last week of the 2011 legislative session and had to watch the power outage from afar while receiving constant updates on the status of the situation from local authorities and power companies. I checked in with my wife, who as a nurse practitioner in San Diego was also very busy.
What I learned the next day is that sometimes crisis brings out the best in our community.
As the power came back on the following day, my office was notified of several stories about how Californians rallied together to help one another. What started with human error would lead to many inspirational stories about ordinary citizens helping each other get through a long night.
I’d like to share four of the stories I heard from my constituents in Ramona who helped their fellow community members survive a difficult situation. The Ramona Chamber of Commerce and I will soon be honoring the work these citizens did in their community’s time of need:
•Ramona Family Naturals, an organic and natural food store, had its own challenge trying to ensure that perishable products would be iced and kept cool during the long evening without power. But the store’s employees also took time to help a family obtain some gasoline so they could drive their young baby, Liam, to Los Angeles for an urgently needed dialysis treatment.
•Stater Bros. Market, in addition to staying open and serving the community, also provided ATM services through their checkout lines so Ramona residents could get emergency cash since the power outage had shut-down all the local ATM machines in the area.
•Ramona CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and Ramona REAL (Ramona Emergency Assistance League), a local nonprofit comprised of trained professionals, sprang into action immediately all over Ramona during the power outage. They provided oxygen and generators to the sick and elderly who had lost power as well as helping out in a variety of other emergency situations.
•Cold Stone Creamery handed out free ice cream to all who would partake. The manager and employees explained that they wanted to help provide a calming influence in the community to prevent anyone panicking. You know, there truly is something about eating ice cream that makes a person feel good.
These are just four of the many stories of courage, compassion and kindness that occurred throughout Ramona during the recent power outage. These acts of kindness by good Samaritans, neighbors and strangers help us remain a positive people and up to meeting the challenges we face every day.
I look forward to the Ramona Chamber of Commerce honoring the owners and employees of these four local businesses at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, at the Century 21 San Vicente Auditorium in Ramona. I hope you will be able to join us at the ceremony.
If you know of any similar inspirational stories that happened in other nearby communities during the power outage, please share them with me at: email@example.com.
Senator Joel Anderson, an Alpine resident, represents San Diego and Riverside counties in the 36th District in the California State Senate.