Building communities with snow

Technews Writer
Fri Feb 04, 2011

Snowpocalypse, snowmageddon, snowtorious B. I. G., snowverload: the monikers keep on coming, but it must be admitted that the great snow event wasn’t what it was made out to be. This is a good thing.

From all accounts, only one death in the city of Chicago, and that to someone who didn’t quite have their wits about them, walking out by the lakeside on such a night as that person did. (I imagine the discovery was made so expediently, because of all the people who were stuck in the cars on Lake Shore Drive – the ones who had the real ordeal, the ones who really faced the brunt of the blizzard, being stuck in the snow, without food, drink or access to facilities, for up to 11 hours or more – someone must have seen something and raised the alarm.)

What has been most interesting for me, other than actually watching the blizzard through apartment windows (the blizzard seems to have finally taken care of a number of plastic bags that hung on high branches in various places), has been the aftermath, the clearing up process, the general sense of community.

On Wednesday, when I walked out after the storm had subsided, there was a sense of good cheer all around, the distant wailing of kids, the sounds of makeshift sleds crashing against each other in the parks (accompanied with appropriate shrieking), aggressive sculpting – snowmen emerging out of the snow, complete with scarves, pipes, and carrot-noses – and a lot of “pleases” and “after-yous.” The shovelers were out already, starting to make some headway into the piles. It was worth reflecting that these people didn’t need to go anywhere, but were doing this for the sake of those who might. This was seen in other ways, too, as on Wednesday, as on the next two days, people were seen coming off the sidewalks to help people push their cars out of a jam. People in cars behind a line of cars came forward and shoveled while the cars ahead gradually made their way out. Again, the infectious warm feeling was visible everywhere.

And so, I say, what a snow-storm this has been, not for its record-worthy snowfall, but for this reaching out of helping hands after. I wish Dickens were alive and recording all this.

The city gets a lot of flak for doing things wrong, but at 2 AM on Friday, crews were still out there with many-limbed machines, shoveling, still shoveling.


Appears in
2011 - Spring - Issue 4