This will appear in the Farmerville, Louisiana Gazette on Christmas Day, 2013.

This week I planned to throw aside the ills of the world, problems with our government and concerns I have with the direction of society and instead focus on the time of the season. I thought maybe a story of the Christmas Wreath or a subject dear to me, the German influence on Christmas in America. I was still toying with what to write about as my family sat down Saturday to open Christmas gifts while turkey and dressing cooked in the kitchen. Saturday was the only time we could have Tommy in from Shreveport, Sarah wasn’t on call at St Francis and Christopher would be available. Even though we would not be together for Christmas Eve, the fact that we were together to celebrate the holiday was the most important part of the holiday.
Suddenly, straight from the poem “A Christmas Story”, “and then on the lawn there rose such a clatter I sprang from my bed to see what was a matter”. The only difference was that phone alerts began to go off, the weather channel homed in on Union Parish and the local channels lit up with alerts. While the guests prepared to take refuge under the stairs I had to witness natures fury first hand and observed nature’s wrath on my small subdivision as I retrieved siding from my front yard. Suddenly it was over and the time to give thanks was upon us.
For our family- gathering no one was hurt and the clan will live to love another day. But we discovered something else; it’s the togetherness of the event that really makes a gathering so special. With TV unavailable, WiFi down and light provided by a Coleman lantern we had one of the most memorable Christmas’s ever. The turkey never finished cooking and some lucky critters will feast on a half cooked bird; however, we had the opportunity to see friends at a local restaurant as the family gathered for our Christmas meal. I am thankful for an opportunity to spend an evening with the family in a much more tradition setting and the only “noise” we heard was the squeal of the children. I feel blesses to have had this simple Christmas with my family.
For the parish there were many thousands of homes that lost power. Our parish is served by two power companies that insures that we are blessed with the bare necessity of electricity. When this storm hit, an action plan went into effect that is nothing short of magnificent. With winds blowing and temperatures dropping the last thing I want to do is crawl outside of a comfortable house, put on a rain suit and dedicate the next 24 hours to restoring electrical service; but our companies did just that. With the precision of a military operation, outages were identified, prioritized and resources were assigned to insure that the most people would get their service restored in the quickest time possible. There is no silver bullet here; not quick fix. It takes a lot of time, effort and self-sacrifice to restore power to thousands of customers and to do this when one slip means death makes it even more perilous. While working overseas my company had one of the most stringent safety requirements in the world and still I would hear of a death or horrible burn from electricity. This is dangerous work and it bothers me when I hear complaints about the slow progress or lack of visibility of workers restoring service. I take the opposite position. Coming from both a military and project management background where detailed planning and quick execution of a plan makes for a successful mission, I am impressed and thankful for the men and women that moved in and got our electricity restored. I was sure that on Sunday when the sun went down and with temperatures dropping that it would be the following morning before I could indulge in a cup of home brewed coffee. Then in the middle of the night the light flickered and suddenly there was light. I feel blessed to have our Entergy and Claiborne Electric crews.
There were areas of our parish that really took a beating. Driving along high way 33 your heart has to break as you looked at the destruction at Hearn’s trailer park and the homes that had so much damage. I immediately thought of a time long long ago when a young Seabee was part of a unit that cleaned up after a tornado swept through a trailer park in Southaven, Mississippi. Like our own tragedy, no lives were lost but the material loss was devastating. While it is difficult to find anything to be blessed with such devastation, we do have certain aspects that reinforces our belief in mankind. Our community mobilized to help where possible. Social media lit up with heart felt responses to the loss of property of the many affected and showed a genuine caring toward our fellow man. Local response teams were immediately on the scene to maintain control and provide help. Unlike in other parts of the world, I am confident that support organizations, families and friends will insure that the victims will have a comfortable place to lay their heads and food to eat and then support will be available to help rebuild. I feel blessed to live in a community such as Union Parish, a state such as Louisiana and a country such as the United States.
Merry Christmas everyone and wishing all a happy New Year.

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