Early one morning, I made a cup of coffee, took my dog for a walk, and drove to work. There was bad weather, so I wore a raincoat, and when I got to the office, I hung my jacket on the back of my chair to dry. At my desk, I responded to emails and answered calls — business as usual. By 5 p.m., my jacket was dry, and I carried it with me back home.
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, it sounded like a train was roaring through town. Days after the deadly tornado ripped across over 200 miles of Western Kentucky, a few of SEC’s staff members drove to Madisonville, KY, where we met another operating unit. As we made our way toward Dawson Springs, we got a small glimpse of the devastation we’d been hearing about in the news.
Scraps of metal lined both sides of the road and bits of homes were scattered across open fields. When we checked into our hotel, the concierge gripped the edge of her desk as she told us that her home had collapsed on top of her son and mother two days prior. Thankfully, they had both survived. She wrapped up the story by apologizing for the lack of complimentary cookies that evening. To the left sat three card tables covered with toiletries, batteries, granola bars, and other supplies that had been donated by hotel staff and patrons. For the remainder of the evening, guests checked in and out of the hotel, picking up a few items as they went. Everyone needed something.
When I asked SEC Superintendent Brent Stubblefield what it’s like arriving after a storm, he told me, “When we roll up to a community that’s devastated, their houses are blown away, trees are down, and we can’t get through the road. For the linemen out there, it becomes less about the job and more about helping people. It almost feels like you’re part of the community.” He recalled one of his first memories of taking a storm call. He heard, “You like good money? Let’s go on storm,” so he packed a bag and went. But it wasn’t the ‘good money’ that stuck with him all those years; it was the warm welcome his crews received when they arrived at the devastated areas.
“Homeowners in the community came together and took care of us.” The members of the community whose lives had been torn apart were the same ones who cleared the roads, cooked meals, and did laundry for the crews. “Like the granola bars, you saw at the hotel, there’s no food around. You’re eating box lunches 24/7. So when families make you dinner, it means a lot.”
Brent also added, “SEC has such a big footprint when we go; it’s like a well-oiled machine. It’s impressive to watch 30 crews lined up to build 4-5 miles of powerline on the side of the road.”
I’m proud to work for a company that embodies Brent’s words when he says, “Community is the key to the whole thing.” Having seen just a glimpse of what our employees witness each time they take a storm call, I have even greater respect and gratitude for the lengths our employees go and the hours they dedicate to keeping our lights on.