People’s spirit shone through

Sammy Rouchdi pushes a stranded motorist, Cameron Scheeler, up an iced-over hill on Womack Road in Dunwoody after he became stuck on the ice trying to get home on Tuesday.

Combined ShapeCaption
Sammy Rouchdi pushes a stranded motorist, Cameron Scheeler, up an iced-over hill on Womack Road in Dunwoody after he became stuck on the ice trying to get home on Tuesday.

Growing up in New England, we referred to one or two inches of snow as a “dusting.” One or two inches of snow in metropolitan Atlanta, I quickly learned, was a “disaster.”

Leaving my office in Kennesaw for my normal 20-minute reverse commute into the city, after the storm already began, proved to be too late.

Minutes of stalled and soul-crushing traffic turned into hours. And then the sun went down.

People ran out of gas. Cars became stuck, literally freezing in place. I listened to AM radio broadcasts of dire situations just one or two miles ahead on the interstate. I needed to act.

My own vehicle was down to less than a quarter tank of fuel, and my one bottle of water was ready for a refill. I pulled off the highway and crept down Cobb Parkway, looking for a motel, or a lodge, or just somewhere warm to pass the night. It was a sheet of ice. Spinning tires, horn blasts and frustration filled the cold air.

By the time I arrived at the Marietta Super 8, they had nearly sold out of rooms. The rooms that were available were frozen shut. Motel staff and maintenance workers attempted for well over an hour to pry open the doors in a noble attempt to shelter myself and other weary travelers.

During this ordeal, I noticed something.

Everywhere I turned, stranded motorists were rescued. Strangers helped other strangers push cars off of icy patches and slick roadways. On the highway, Good Samaritans brought hot soup or water to their fellow commuters. In the below-freezing temperatures, stores remained open late or even through the night.

In the next few weeks, the lack of preparation of the city and state will be scrutinized. Surely someone was at fault.

I can’t help but quote the embattled former mayor of Providence, R.I., Buddy Cianci, when he said that, “at the local level, there’s no Democratic way to plow snow or a Republican way to build a home for the elderly. It’s (about) getting it through, getting it done.”

There is no doubt that the lack of coordination by school systems, the business sector and government magnified an already dangerous winter weather situation. It could have also been the lack of removal equipment or the weather forecast.

Still, after all the ice melts, the traffic begins to flow again and final blame has been cast, it should be noted that throughout the storm, Georgians continued to do what Georgians do.

Despite not seeing a single snow plow or sanding truck, I did experience the one thing that this corner of America is known for, and that’s just good ol’ Southern hospitality.

A 2008 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Patrick Darcey grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Georgia in June 2012. He currently resides in Atlanta.