Pennington: Water Crisis Brings Out West Virginia Pride

There is one thing that I have always been proud of and that is being from the state of West Virginia. Until you have the chance to visit the wild and wonderful hills you may not fully understand what it is like to see the beauty and experience a group of people who would literally take a stranger into their home and offer aid to a person in need. I have known this for the 39 years that God has allowed me to walk on this planet. Sadly, it would take a crisis affecting 300,000 people to show the world what my home state is really about. 

Over that past week, the areas in and around Charleston have been dealing with a chemical release that left our tap water unusable. The ban left us unable to shower, wash clothes, or even wash our hands. To say that the past week has been a struggle for us all would be the understatement of the decade. But during the times of crisis is where people’s true character is shown and the character of West Virginia’s first responders has been a bright shining light. 

Over the past week fire departments, EMS agencies and our police officers have been working 24/7 to provide emergency aid to the citizens. They have been staffing water distribution sites, managing medical concerns, and keeping order all while continuing to answer the normal calls for service.

During this crisis two things stand out to this jumpseat rider. First, is the dedication to serve that has been shown by all emergency responders. Second, is how the responders have gone out into their home areas and ensured that the elderly and those who didn’t have access to water distribution sites were looked after.

From signing up to work extra hours to volunteering at water distribution sites, responders show how much they truly care about our community.  Personally, I watched four different water sites operating for 12-plus hours by men and women who smiled, waved, and ensured they had a positive attitude towards the thousands of people looking for water.  Doing these small things may seem trivial to some, but the effects on the public was noticeable. 

Possibly the most telling part of the water crisis is hearing stories of responders who would load up their personal vehicles to distribute water to those who couldn’t get out.  Going above and beyond may seem new to many, but to us it's just our way of life. You see responders are about service; that's why we are here.

As the water crisis comes to an end with the release of water service let me take a moment to send a huge thank you to the first responders from around the region. I am proud to say that I am a part of the West Virginia emergency responder's family. A family that has gone above and beyond what was asked to ensure that we all had the basic services available. Don’t ever think, for one minute, that the men and women that ride around under the light bars don’t care about their communities. In fact, they may care more than everyone else because it’s our community and we have taken an oath to protect it! Stay safe everyone and make sure to say thanks for the people that bring us our power, water, and gas. Trust me when I say that you definitely miss them when they are not available.