There is a fair accumulation of new snow as I write this, which reminds me that while the big storm is over, many of us continue to suffer and contend with its effects, and will be doing so for some time. Our friends’ and neighbors’ lives have been disrupted beyond our knowing, and businesses will struggle to recover for months to come.
I have lived with winter storms in Maine for more than 50 years. Two that quickly come to mind are the New Year’s storm of 1962-63 and a March storm in 1984, which struck the night I became publisher of the NEWS and raised the possibility of not getting a paper out my first day on the job.
None of these brought the challenges that ICE-’98 presented to us as a state and as a community. All Maine was affected by the storm, but the brunt was borne by central and Down East Maine.
And did we respond! The storm brought us back to our roots. History says we are resourceful and can “get by” on our own. Our independence tends to isolate us, but last week we set our independence and isolation aside, looked around for what needed doing, and helped, without question and without asking anything in return.
We took people in, friends and strangers alike, provided food, wood, generators, transportation, blood for the Red Cross, donations and, most importantly, comfort.
Our institutions were quick to recognize the need for response. An effort little noted, but vital, was the work from the beginning of the storm by state and local road crews to keep our roads passable. Without their hard work over long hours, the recovery would have been impossible.
The line crews of Bangor Hydro, Central Maine Power and others from states as far away as West Virginia came to our aid, working in danger, around the clock, exhausted and in extremely cold conditions to restore a vital service that we take for granted (or did). Bell Atlantic and its counterparts did the same job for our telephone service.
We also need to remember Bob Briggs and Bill Cohen of Bangor Hydro, and David Flanagan and Mark Ishkanian of Central Maine Power, who were tirelessly working to manage their resources and tell us as best they could what was going on and when we could expect relief; the National Guard, hospitals and emergency medical people, churches and businesses like MBNA who not only opened their doors but whose people responded; students from the University of Maine who turned out to help; and the governor, without power himself, but visible and accessible. Many people who were out working carried their own burden of homes and families who needed help as much as those they were helping.
As commendable as it is to want to help, you have to know how to help to be effective. The state’s newspapers, television and radio stations pointed out where there were needs, and willing people filled those needs. One radio station recognized early on that this was big and redefined its own call-letters. WVOM was truly the Voice of Maine for days on end, a lifeline for many of us for more than a week.
The storm affected people in many different ways. We at the Bangor Daily News relearned the rule that putting out a newspaper is a team effort.
My thanks go to all who were out covering stories, talking to families driven from their homes by the cold, taking stunning photographs of a state in crisis; to the production people, circulation folks and drivers from H.A. Hersey, who believe that the BDN has to be distributed; to motor route drivers; and to individual drivers and carriers throughout northeastern Maine who bring the paper to your driveway or doorstep.
I did not believe we would produce a newspaper for the morning of Friday, Jan. 9. So many people stuck with the process that day and night — especially in our press- and mailrooms — determined to do what they could, that we did print 12,000 copies of the paper. It was the first time in 35 years that we did not home-deliver the paper.
I thank all of our subscribers for your understanding that on Friday and the days that followed our greatest concern was for the safety of delivery people contending with downed power lines, fallen trees and glacial road conditions.
I hope no one reads this and feels they have been overlooked. Too much was done by too many for any one person to know all. We should all take heart that we have strengthened the definition of community for our state.
Sincerely, Richard J. Warren, Publisher