To the point week of 10-18-07

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WE ALL KNOW WHERE WE WERE – at least those of us who are old enough – 20 years ago this week. You may not immediately remember, but when you read the next sentence, I’m sure you will.

Baby Jessica was trapped in a well.

It’s been 20 years (October 14th, to be exact) that baby Jessica McClure fell through an eight-inch opening in her yard and was trapped inside a small well.

It was 20 years ago Tuesday that she was lifted out to safety.

As workers tried to dig and save the 18-month old girl, the entire nation became transfixed on a small back yard in Midland, Texas.

It took 58 hours to get her out of that well, but I am willing to wager that if you were watching, a tear rolled down your cheek when the live television feed showed the rescue worker being pulled up by a rope – with baby Jessica in his arms.

And America stood and cheered.

It was a surreal time in many ways. Most of the time Americans were watching a fixed camera shot of the rescuers as they scrambled around. “Experts” went on shows and were interviewed as to how workers might dig parallel tunnels in order to get to the child; and we learned everything from how they were attempting to feed her and keep her calm to what position she was in down in that well.

We all watched, but we weren’t sure what we were about to see. What if the hole collapsed, and we were all witnesses to the death of an 18-month old baby? What if they couldn’t get her out?

Why didn’t someone cover that hole?

Now 20 years later, Jessica McClure is married and has a child of her own. She had no comment on the anniversary of the event, preferring to try and lead a normal life with her husband and son.

When she turns 25 years old she will gain access to a trust fund that was established for her during that time. It reportedly holds in excess of $1 million.

But the thing that truly sticks out for me is not the money or the media coverage; but how individuals in a small town rallied together to help save a little girl.

Sure, there were emergency workers and engineers and contractors and others with expertise; but there were also regular men and women who came with shovels and picks – ready to dig.

They didn’t understand the physics of the situation; but they understood the gravity of it.

That community is a lot like ours.

Nearly everyday I hear stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. They don’t do it because it might merit television coverage or even a pat on the back, they do it because they see a neighbor in need and they want to help.

We live in a community that in many ways is a throw back to other times. People here still gather and find unity in their community fire department. They help when help is needed. They give when they need to – not just when they want to.

We take time to notice when the neighbor’s door is open or when something just doesn’t look “right” as we drive past some place. We take care of each other.

Our community of Switzerland County is not limited to town limits and township borders. In many ways we all seem to know that “we’re in this together”, and if someone can make someone else’s “row to hoe” a little easier, then they willingly come and help.

I remember driving to Madison one evening with my wife, and as we got near Lamb, there was quite a commotion along the hillside and highway 56. It seems that a little boy had wandered away, and as it got dark, he needed to be found.

I pulled my car over in line with a long number of others, and everyone got out and started up the hillside into the woods. Many didn’t even know the little boy, but they saw a need and tried to meet it.

Years later I watched that little boy, who we found that night, playing on our high school teams. He was a tremendous athlete, but each time I saw him I couldn’t help but think back to that night that I walked through the woods looking for him.

But that’s what we do here in our community of Switzerland County. We help each other – whether we know them or not.

And that’s what people did 20 years ago in the small town of Midland, Texas, when they picked up their shovels and went to help.

And we all sat and held our breath.