When the lights go out

If you live anywhere from Indiana to Virginia, you know about this storm. It was brutal. It ripped huge old trees from the ground like they were carrots. In downtown Columbus, I didn’t see a lot of the damage. It wasn’t until I got to Newark last Monday that I saw scenes like this:

Worse than the blown-over trees and knocked-down signs (and yes, that’s an upside down plane) was the fact that tens of thousands of people were without power in Ohio. The temperature soared into the 90s. There was no gas, no milk, no sign of life at nearby convenience stores.

Every night, I went home to air conditioning and microwaved meals while families like the Haynes sat on the porch in 90-degree weather, hoping for relief.

I’ve never felt so guilty reporting a story. I had just one day at the office without power. I hauled my two camping lanterns into the building and made phone calls in the eerie light. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people couldn’t even take a hot shower. They were so desperate for power that they left tokens of gratitude to the utility company, which at times might have felt like their greatest enemy.

The utility workers, meanwhile, were sleeping here. Life wasn’t much better for them. They retired to a trailer after a 16-hour work day.

Some people made the best of it. These sweet kids in Granville, Ohio, set up a lemonade stand. They offered me a glass for free, but I declined. They weren’t hurting for customers. Most of the village didn’t have power for a week.

As I type this, it’s Sunday night. Thousands of people, many of them in Licking County, where I work, still don’t have power. So far, three people there, all elderly and suffering from health problems, have died in this heat. I can’t stop thinking about them.

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