Morning on an American interstate. A caravan of large bucket trucks travels southward. There must be a hundred of them. Maybe more. These are utility workers.
Hurricane Ida plowed into Louisiana like a Peterbilt semi yesterday. These trucks are heading to ground zero to join the 25,000 other utility workers who are already in the Bayou State restoring power.
The trucks’ running lights are on. Their hydraulic lift buckets wobble from highway speed.
The men and women behind the wheels are preparing for weeks of sleepless nights, mechanical failures, possible accidents, wet weather, convenience-store suppers, cheap hotels, and video calls home—provided there is cell service.
A little boy in the backseat of a passing minivan with Florida tags waves at one of the truck drivers. The lineman waves back.
The boy’s mother cranes forward. She mouths the words “Thank you” in hopes that the utility worker can read her lips.
He can. He replies with a thumbs up.
And the convoy of trucks never stops coming. One by one they come. And
one by one they should be thanked.
I live on the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes are part of our life. When Opal hit, for instance, it crippled us. And yet, amazingly, it only took 24 hours for hordes of electrical workers to arrive in our town and restore our power so we could all get back to watching daytime television.
The workers came from far-off places like Maryland, Texas, Ohio, or Pennsylvania.
My aunt was so grateful to the linemen working on her street that she brought them sandwiches each morning. Other neighborhood ladies made cookies and deviled eggs. Elderly Miss Elaine made her infamous Green Jello Salad of Death. I would have warned the lineworkers not to eat the stuff, but it was too late.
And I’ll never forget when Hurricane Ivan smashed into our area a decade later. I was a newlywed, living in a one-bedroom apartment.…