As you read in the last post–SnowJam 2014 Part 1–I was stuck in the ridiculous traffic that was SnowJam 2014 in Atlanta. Well, sort of. You see, it only took me about five hours to get home. I was one of the lucky ones. I walked in my front door right before the sun set, into my warm house, family, and food waiting on me. Others weren’t so lucky.
After sitting in traffic for 4.5 hours and only traveling about 3 miles north of our campus, one of my co-workers ended up parking her car in a parking lot on Hwy 41 in Marietta because she couldn’t get traction on the ice. She walked for 2 hours north in 20 degree weather in tennis shoes and a jacket until her brother could come and get her. Once they were reunited, they had to go and pick up another family member who was stranded. They ended up getting home 12 hours after she left campus.
Another co-worker abandoned her car in a parking lot after 5 hours, due to unsafe driving conditions, about 3 miles away from campus. Her phone died as she was texting me. Luckily, she was able to go to our local neighborhood pub and hang out. She met a kind stranger who took her through the ice and snow up about 17 miles north of campus to where she lives. She also got home 12 hours after she left campus.
There were others, so very many others, that were stuck. They were simply stuck out there in the cold on the roads. Highways, interstates, and backroads were gridlocked, and the people were many miles away from home.
My sister-in-law was stuck at the interchange of I285 and I75 for over 20 hours. She relied on the kindness of strangers to give her water and food. She got home 27 hours after she left work. There were children that were stuck on school buses trying to get home. My friends who walked miles and miles to get their children stranded at school and stayed at the school with their child because it was too dark and cold to make the return walk. The mother who gave birth to a baby girl named Grace on I285. The woman who was 8 months pregnant with her 3 year old in the car and started to have contractions. There were thousands either stuck on the road or had abandoned their cars because they could go no further.
But, we are Southerners, and we are known for our hospitality. A Facebook group quickly showed the world what being Southern really means. A British woman in Marietta, Michelle Sollicito, got home early, saw a need, and quickly decided to start the Facebook group SnowedOutAtlanta. By the end of the day on Tuesday, there were 44,000 members in this Facebook group that had been created just hours before. It became the best place to disseminate information, find what stores, churches, hotels, schools, and restaurants were still open, and find people who were in need of medical attention or supplies. Strangers were listing their phone numbers and telling people to call or private message them if they needed a place to stay. Strangers were getting others off the roads and letting them into their homes. By the next morning there was a concentrated effort by people with 4×4’s to get those stranded home. Those who were still stuck on the interstates were seeing people like the “Hot Chocolate Hunks” and others coming around with food, water, medical supplies like insulin, gasoline, jumper cables, and blankets. All bought with their own money, and never asking for anything in return. That amount of generosity is humbling. It wasn’t just one town or one county that this happened in, but all over the Metro area. Southern hospitality has a whole new meaning, now.
Slowly, the Metro area is getting back to normal. By the end of the day on Wednesday, many people had made it back home, and today most people were able to get out to retrieve their abandoned vehicles. Schools have been closed for another day to get the ice to fully melt off the back roads and in the subdivisions. This weekend it is supposed to be in the mid-60’s, and Southern life will return to a more normal pace.
I have always been proud to be from the South, for all of it’s faults and oddities. Sometimes, we seem to live in our history a bit too much, and often we are thought of as backwater and ignorant. But this, what happened in Atlanta over the last few days, should be an example of what being Southern is really about. It’s not hoop skirts and football. It’s coming together and helping each other. It wasn’t about race or religion this time, and Lord knows, those are hot topics down here. This was about a city of 6 million people wanting to make sure their fellow Southerner was okay. I don’t know that I’ve ever been any prouder of my fellow Southerners. I’m humbled, overwhelmed, and amazed at what this city was able to accomplish when we came together. Who knew?