To the point week of 2-5-09

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THE PAST TWO WEEKS has brought many surprises to Switzerland County, with heavy snow and ice from the week before preceding blowing snow this week – and all of it resulting in what can best be described as a “mess”.

Churches were closed on Sunday. Some stores stayed closed as well, and most of us just kicked back and watched the Super Bowl; or read a book; or took a nap. “At least we’re inside where it’s warm,” we all thought to ourselves.

But this isn’t a column about being warm and cozy in our homes. Rather, it’s about looking out the window at falling snow and waiting on a phone call that tells you that you have to go drive a big truck all night long.

It’s about getting a call that someone’s life is in danger and they are in need of emergency medical attention; so you scrape off your car and head to the emergency unit to get an ambulance to go and help them.

It’s about driving a patrol car on roads that no one should have to be on in order to protect the public; and it’s about getting out the big red truck and going to a home on fire and working in the bitter cold through freezing ice to try and save what you can.

For many people in Switzerland County and in other areas, snowy days cause a knot to come into their stomachs because they begin to think about the possibilities that are out there.

The story on page 16 of today’s edition – and the front page of last week’s paper – deals with the Switzerland County Highway Department and the job that they do clearing out roads and bridges. Now, I understand that there are people who live in our county who have trouble understanding why their road isn’t the first one plowed; but if you step back and think about it – it’s amazing that things get done as efficiently as they do.

There’s 18 guys using nine trucks trying to keep almost 400 miles of roads cleared off. Now anyone who has driven around our fair community knows that Switzerland County isn’t known for its straight, flat roadways.

There’s hills and valleys and curves that would make a sailor sick. There are bridges that Noah built right after he finished the arc; and some of our gravel roads might best be passed by horseback rather than horsepower.

Our county officials have done a wonderful job in laying out a long term plan for the replacement of those bridges and the paving of those paths, but wise use of riverboat revenues means that they can’t get it all done instantly. They have been smart in how those funds have been used, and over a period of a few more years, our roads will be paved and our bridges will be replaced.

But that doesn’t do anything now, and for hours on end these workers are out there plowing and spreading sand and salt and melting ice so that we can all have a better chance of getting to work the next day.

No one can control what nature throws at us, so everyone needs to be a little patient and understanding when it comes to getting roads cleared and travel resumed.

Along with those workers is the effort given by law enforcement personnel and by the volunteers who man the emergency units and fire departments. Heart attacks are limited to summertime and clear weather; and fires don’t happen on warm spring days.

The worst things happen to people at the worst times; and we should all be thankful that we have people who are willing to come and help us when we need it most. No one says that the roads are too bad for the ambulance to drive down; and no one tells you that your house will just have to burn because they can’t find anyone to drive the truck.

Likewise, law enforcement, from the town to the county to our state police are always on duty; seeing to it that lives and property are protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Holidays and cold nights don’t stand in the way of getting the job done.

Not even the Super Bowl.

So the next time you look out your window and watch the snow falling and cars sliding, take time to remember those people who are out there making it safe for all of us and keeping us safe, as well. Sometimes it’s a thankless job that none of us gives proper credit for.

Thank you anyway. You deserve much more.