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With recovery, all communities should be treated equally

By G. Michael Dobbs
Managing Editor

My wife and I have lived in the Maple High Six Corners neighborhood of Springfield since April, 1990 and I want to say thanks thanks to the neighbors who pitched in to help one another; thanks to the volunteers who helped people clear debris from the yards, homes and streets; thanks to Elizabeth Cardona of the governor's Western Massachusetts office for walking the neighborhood to see conditions first hand; thanks to folks from the American Red Cross, various churches and Springfield College who came through our streets handing out water and food and thanks to everyone who has simply asked, "Are you OK?"
Speaking for my wife and I, we are deeply appreciative of those continuing efforts and concern.
I can only hope that this small, low-income neighborhood will get the attention the South End and Sixteen Acres areas have received from city and state officials. I have to admit I've not seen many elected officials walking our streets. I expected to see them, but the only one I've met has been our Ward Three City Councilor Melvin Edwards. Perhaps, I missed them.
I was told Mayor Domenic Sarno did walk through the neighborhood on Sunday. Historically, our neighborhood has not been one that has been on the top of many priority lists, although there had been progress made by the Sarno Administration in addressing blight and encouraging redevelopment.
I believe the residents of the other affected neighborhoods are going to need a lot of attention from city and state officials to rebuild. I hope this attention is equal.
I would have loved if the police and the National Guard had prevented people from coming into the neighborhood whom had no business there other than to gawk and take photos. That would have helped our immediate recovery efforts, but we didn't get that service.
I understand human nature and the desire to see this piece of history first-hand, but cut it the hell out, folks.
In my neighborhood, Clark Street, a tiny street between Spruce and Hancock streets, is essentially gone. There are only two homes that haven't been condemned. Central Street has many condemnations, as does Beech Street. Once the rumble is cleared, this area is going to look very barren.
Although immediate recovery from the tornado should be on the top of everyone's minds, plans for rebuilding the neighborhoods should be started. We need owner-occupied single-family homes in our neighborhood. We need to see the Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School continue. We need to support people who want to rebuild the homes they've lost.
All of the communities affected by this devastating event need equal attention and equal help. Western Massachusetts is full of resourceful and resilient people who will do what they can to bounce back.
***

People talk about what it's like to go home again. Well, I guess I'm there.
Is it 1975 all over again?
The tornado ripped out our cable television, Internet connection and landline phone — minor inconveniences compared to the destruction of homes near us.
So I'm not complaining. I still have an intact home. Thank you.
I do have the chance of realizing what life was like before having the Web and cable television.
Do you remember back to that era when people used rocks for money?
Spending my teen and college years in Granby in the late 1960s and early '70s meant that we had a huge choice of television stations: ABC, CBS, NBC locally and maybe, if the wind was right, some stations from Connecticut.
There was no remote control. Instead my brother and I would stare each other down about who was going to get off his backside to change channels.
It freaks out young people to tell them that most of my generation saw the world through television in black and white. And the qualities of the image were dependent upon the weather and if some bird were sitting on the antenna.
I thought my brother and I were living large because we had an 18" Dumont black and white television in our room — our room, dammit. If we kept the sound low, we could watch stuff into the wee hours or as "wee" as I could, considering I had to get up to do farm chores in the morning.
We watched that Dumont until the faltering picture tube made everyone look about three inches in height.
Ah, the salad days.
We had one phone in the house in the kitchen, which had a long enough cord I could stretch to stand behind a closed door on the staircase to the basement and talk in semi-privacy.
Later, my dad put an extension in the basement, which became the Fortress of Solitude for a teenage boy talking to his girlfriend for hours.
Well, today we have cell phones, so that service is fine, and between what we can get on the antenna and our DVD collection, there is plenty to watch.
I'm going through Internet withdrawals though.
I surf, I blog, I Facebook — is that a verb? — and I'm sort of twitching that I can't really do any. Since the power is out in East Longmeadow and our Internet provider at work is also on the fritz, I can't count on that as providing a fix.
I'm thinking of hanging out at the library just to get me some.
As Joni Mitchell would say, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone."


Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at news@thereminder.com or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.
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