Baumhower: Toledo ToughWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The City of Toledo is having a year to remember — a year that started with its worst winter in history and included the on-duty deaths of two of its firefighters, a pothole epidemic, a media-created blight issue and now a full-fledged water crisis that left over 400,000 residents without safe drinking water.
This has been one hell of a year.
As the news broke of Toledo issuing a “Do not drink” advisory early Saturday morning on Facebook, local stores’ shelves were being emptied by people buying as many cases of water as they could.
The area’s bottled water supply was gone before I even woke up at 8:30 a.m. I did not panic; I thought it was somehow being overhyped. An hour later, after hearing reports of fist-fighting over cases of water and elevating hysteria, I decided to see firsthand what was happening on the very streets where I was raised.
There was an energy in every place I walked into; the atmosphere was comparable to the moment stores open on Black Friday. There was a feeling of desperation. Stores such as Kroger, Walmart and Target were already completely empty — no agua to be found. I watched people hurrying in and out of the businesses on a mission; the walk back to the car empty-handed was becoming a full-on sprint.
Outdated rumors were flying about which places had water, which did not and which were expecting a shipment. The most credible information I heard came from a videographer from 13abc, who said The Andersons was expecting a shipment within the hour, so I ventured there.
There is some science that says the act of yawning is contagious; I think seeing someone jog into a store might equally be.
As I parked the car, I saw person after person leaving The Andersons store pushing a cart loaded with four cases of water. I think the very sight made people start to jog from their cars inside.
I entered the south entrance of the store and found my way to the unloading dock where hard workers in blue shirts were busy placing cases of water in customers’ shopping carts. As I followed the line of those waiting to be next, I was amazed to see it extended past the food department — the entire span of the store.
There were in excess of 150 customers with shopping carts waiting for their opportunity to simply buy a case of water. One could not help but do the math and notice that what was in the loading dock would fall way short of the people waiting in line. Supply versus demand was not in the consumers’ favor at that hour. I knew we were moments away from an announcement informing customers the water was gone.
I thought I was seconds away from chaos, an unruly mob, angry, desperate customers, all quenching a need to buy water for their survival; I have never been so wrong in my life.
As the announcement was made informing those waiting in line, I watched in anticipation of people hearing the bad news. I felt like the Grinch on Christmas morning, watching a town, expecting the worst. And just like the green villain before me, I was surprised by what took place. There was no outrage, no outcry, no complaints, no acts of desperation. The Toledoans who heard the bad news were smiling, understanding, joking and planning where to go next. Dr. Seuss himself would have been proud of their reaction.
This is when I was reminded of the character of the place I choose to call home and the people who reside here.
As more news spread about the water shortage and people’s hunt to find some, there was a new trend that was emerging — kindness. People from unaffected areas were driving to the parts that were affected, some with a trunk full of water, others just wanting to help. Northwest Ohioans started organizing volunteer groups and mobilizing; we started to remind others to check on their neighbors, the elderly, pregnant women and families with small children. We started handing bottles of water to strangers who were thirsty.
Toledo’s heart knew what to do before its elected officials did.
As stories of water being donated multiplied, we also started hearing reports and whispers of price-gouging. Social media started to shame those looking to exploit this crisis for personal financial gains. Toledo was now fighting and throwing punches.
But for every report of gouging, there were 20 stories of random kindness. Eventually the good deeds stomped out the evil ones, as they always seem to do here.
It seems something is trying to kill the Glass City; there is a force trying to finish us off. Toledoans are being tested in ways we never dreamed of before, to see how tough we actually are.
How this city has acted and reacted to each challenge it’s been thrown is beyond inspiring. Not only are we surviving, but our compassion and love for each other and this town is shining its very brightest.
God just sent the Incredible Hulk to smash our water supply and we are hugging this green beast to death with love.
The City of Toledo is said to be many things. Some say we are “ugly,” others claim we are “miserable,” some even go as far to state we are “dead,” but I strongly disagree. Toledo is the very definition of the word “community”; we put each other’s needs first. We are loving, charitable and possess a strong sense of faith; we are very much alive, healthy and well. Our brightest moments come from our darkest times.
The easiest way to describe this place is in two words: Toledo Tough. We do get knocked down occasionally, but every time we stand up together.
Toledo Tough is something that is in our DNA, an attribute we inherited from generations before.
To quote Khalil Gibran, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Find me a Toledoan without a scar and I’ll show you a person not from Toledo. The world watched this city for 48 hours and I have never been so proud as to say I am Toledo Tough.
Thank you, Toledo.
Jeremy Baumhower can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jeremytheproduc.