"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world."
Yes, indeed. Fred Rogers, dead now for more than 10 years, was on to something. It's adults, not children, who keep bringing him back in times of trouble -- a Connecticut school shooting, Boston bombings, an explosion in Texas, floods ravaging the suburbs.
Rogers' quote is poignant because people recognize its truth, in the actions of everyday people thrust into extraordinary circumstances. Teachers who throw themselves in front of a gunman, firefighters who run into a business in danger of exploding, people who run toward the place where the bomb just blew up.
A flood is not a madman with an automatic weapon, nor is it a bomb. But floods are scary, appalling and destructive. Water is rising from rivers, from your sewers. Basements are filling with a vile ick, your backyards (your refuges!) are suddenly opaque, menacing pools. Everything is different, and the safest place on earth, your home, has been invaded.
And as you despair of the rising water and sewage, here comes a neighbor, a firefighter, a police officer, a friend -- to get you out of there, to help you sandbag, to comfort your elderly parents when you can't get there, to drag an electrical cord across the street to help run your refrigerator because he's got power and you don't.
In most cases, these are people with problems of their own, freely giving of their time and comfort. On Thursday, the Daily Herald reported many of these stories, including the tale of the Herrington Inn in Geneva, where at 6 a.m. the manager, Paul Ruby, was alarmed by the rising Fox River to send out an SOS via social media -- please help us sandbag! Four dozen people were still there as of 11 a.m., taking a break while more bags were delivered. They had already filled more than one dump truck's worth of sand into bags and lined them along the hotel. "It is amazing what a community can do," said Geneva Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg.
A Lowes store manager in St. Charles opened early, before 6 a.m., to allow a line of anxious people to come in and buy pumps and cleanup supplies.
The owner of a cleaning service took the time out of a frenetic day to talk to a reporter writing a story so the Daily Herald could offer advice to those with flooded basements.
Read the stories and look at our photo gallery, and you'll see the care with which elderly residents are carried out of flooded nursing homes, strangers fill sandbags to save someone else's house, and people work together to lighten the load, and the mood, on a dark day.
We are the helpers. The helpers are us.