By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mayor Ronnie came into the office with a lot of concerns squarely on his shoulders. “Six million people out of power in Florida,” he said, as he put down his stuff. “When we had the big tornado in 1974, I was in grad school, and still in the National Guard. We had a lot of work to do,” he said, remembering how big the job was to clean up after a storm. We talked about the rest of the natural disasters that had come our way, some seemingly back to back. Ice storms, floods, tornadoes, all of them had hit Alabama, and he said, “There is hard physical labor ahead in putting peoples’ lives back together.” Mayor Ronnie let me know that just the day before, the decision had been made to cancel the ANGA (America’s Natural Gas Alliance) conference scheduled to start September 11 at Leak City. The reason was to free up approximately 300 beds for people fleeing Florida, if they needed a place to land. As much as I know thatthe decision to do so will increase the work load for the Gas Department when they are able to re-schedule, as well as for the potential attendees to do the same, I was so glad that our city and county leadership had made the move to help in any way we can.
At that point, meaning as of Monday morning September 11, we were not completely out of the “Irma woods” ourselves. Blair Davis, the new manager of the electric department called in to let the mayor know that he had just met with his staff, and that they were ready for what could be described as “Irma’s last gasp.” The City of Athens hasa reciprocating agreement with other areas and states when there is a natural disaster, and the mayor said, “We’ve been in need, and people have helped us. We stand ready to help, and we’ll send whoever we can spare after we get through this.”
We took a moment to reflect on the 16th anniversary of 9/11, and while we did so, President Trump was speaking on the same issue. We talked about where we were when we heard about the planes going in to the Twin Towers, and how everything had changed as a result of that act. Mayor Ronnie then found a quote from the book we have been discussing as a series, Herd Your Goat, by Ron Gilliand. “Life’s experiences will either make you bitter or better.” How true. We can either become contracted, fearful and bitter, or we can go on as individuals, a city, and a country to step up for our finest hour.
Mayor Ronnie talked about the contrasts of the weekend. One the one hand, the 9/11 Heroes’ Run was the biggest yet, with approximately 330 runners, a fitting tribute to our soldiers as well as those who perished on 9/11. There was also a Marine Drill Team who ran in cadence for the entire race. On the same day, Big Spring Park was “overrun” with super heroes. It has become a grand show of force for some of our bravest warriors, kids who are facing down the “villains” of childhood cancer and other potentially terminal diseases. How hard it was to compare that determination exhibited by adults and kids alike to fight and live well, versus the inner turmoil that caused a young man to end his life by throwing himself in the path of an oncoming train; it was one of the things that was clearly weighing on the mayor.
So, it was a time to take a moment, a breath, and pray; so we did for longer than usual. Then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner