March 5th, 2021


A very different America?

Cynthia M. Allen

By Cynthia M. Allen Fort Worth Star-Telegram/(TNS)

Published Feb. 22, 2021

A very different America?
When the temperature inside our 100-year-old home dropped to 44 degrees on Monday, we could see our breath. Our 1-year-old was violently shivering while eating his room-temperature yogurt, despite his wearing three layers of clothes. We decided it was time for the kids and me to bug out.

We'd been able to keep our phones charged by plugging them into our car, but with Wi-Fi networks, down the internet was slow and spotty.

If Fort Worth had opened warming stations at this point, we didn't know. If downtown hotels had rooms available, we hadn't been able to check.

We also didn't need to because we had a bounty of offers from friends all over the city — who were by some miracle not at the mercy of ERCOT and Oncor — to shelter us that night.

There's been a lot of that going around.

Generosity, charity and hospitality — the kind that a contentious political season and a contagious viral outbreak have made difficult to impart this past year — have made a comeback.

People offering the warmth of their homes, the comfort of hot meals and clean water.

Others rushing to shut off water spigots for out-of-town neighbors, checking in on homebound friends and coming to the rescue when, inevitably, thawing pipes burst in walls and ceilings.

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While there are more reasons to be off social media than on in this cultural climate, logging in to check out the situation in my neighborhood has been reassuring.

In the hierarchy of risk-taking, fear of your one's neighbors succumbing to hypothermia has beat out fear of the coronavirus.

Despite a year of viral rants about mask-wearing and inadequate social distancing in which posters attack their ideological enemies as grandma-killers for inviting a neighbor to tea, people with power and water have been gracious with their supplies and with their homes.

People actually do care about their fellow man.

And sometimes it takes an acute crisis to remind us of that.

In a viral Facebook post, the now-former mayor of Colorado City, Texas, declared that "only the strong will survive" and that the "City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING!" If there was any truth in it, it's that in situations like this, individuals and families helping each other will save the day more often than large bureaucracies swooping in after government protections fail (or were never there in the first place).

Texans have been through a lot in the last couple weeks.

A horrific traffic pileup that claimed a half-dozen lives and traumatized Fort Worth, and a historic winter storm that has crippled energy infrastructure and left millions in the dark and cold — and some without water — throughout the state.

Oh yeah, and COVID-19 is still a thing.

Needless to say, it's a lot.

And it will be for weeks as the ground thaws and people cope with the aftermath of frozen pipes and through-the-roof-energy bills, along with the frustrating world of insurance claims.

There will be a lot of opportunity in the coming days and weeks to hash it out.

Some people haven't wasted any time at pointing fingers, of course.

Conservative leaders are blaming the failings of green energy production; progressives are assailing deregulation and Republican leadership.

Charges and counter-charges are flying between renewable energy providers and fossil fuel producers, both of which appear to have failed Texans during a once-in-a-generation weather event.

Yes, there will be plenty of blame to go around and I'm sure I will participate, once I can rely on my Internet to be consistently working, my lights to be on and my kids to be warm.

But for now, I'm grateful for friends and for community. In the coming days, we'll find ways to give to others what we have been so graciously gifted in recent days.


Cynthia M. Allen
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Cynthia M. Allen is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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