It didn’t take long for me to witness to my first act of selflessness when the great storm of 2012 struck Bridgeport June 29. In fact, I needed only to walk out the door of the Benedum Civic Center in what would be a feeble attempt to stay dry and get to my car to take pictures of the damage I was certain to see unfolding.
As I stood with Parks and Recreation Director Don Burton well past closing time of the Civic Center, we both watched as P&R staffer Dennis Nappier had pulled his car over in the raging wind and rain that had just hit the city. Nappier, it should be noted, was at the BCC with Burton after hours due to a leak in the ceiling when the storm arrived. Because of the after-hours call out, Nappier had his grandson with him when he departed the building and had pulled over.
Understand that Nappier wasn’t pulled over to ride the storm out. Rather, he did what his gut told him to do: Help out.
A banner in front of the Civic Center was blown to pieces, but the remnants of the banner and the rope attached to it was whipping across Main Street at vehicles passing by. With his grandson in tow, Nappier departed his car and wrestled the banner down in the rain and wind that was still whipping madly at this point. He secured the banner around a telephone pole and went back into his car and departed.
Nappier wasn’t told to do it. He wasn’t doing it because Don Burton was watching and I was taking photos – there was no way to look back and see through the debris and driving rain that we were even there.
It was, as mentioned, the first act of selfless I would see. It would not be the last.
As I’ve found out in many years of writing, it often takes the worst of situations to bring out the best in people. Here in Bridgeport, the worst storm in recent memory brought out the best in the human spirit.
My next stop was at King’s Pizza where a produce stand was wrapped around a telephone pole. A few motorists that had pulled over to avoid the storm were attempting to get out of the car to move items from the roadway and clean up the mess. As I headed back along Johnson Avenue Officer Jamie Hamrick was pulling up to block the road as a tree had crumpled into the roadway ahead. Hamrick got out of her car to immediately secure the roadway. With some motorists confused as to what was going on, Hamrick began her initial directing without rain gear on. Before calming things down and grabbing her gear, Hamrick was soaked.
As I turned back around and began to realize I was more needed at home as a husband and father as opposed to being a journalist, I ran into several more instances of selflessness. Although Route 50 would prove to be blocked off, a car was in the middle of the state highway stopping others from traveling Route 50 West due to a downed power line in front of the Towne House East Motel. Others that had pulled off at the Go-Mart across from Twin Oaks were providing comfort and information to several elderly travelers bewildered by the events unfurling.
After a few minutes there, I finally found a route home along Route 58 past Via Veneto. Even then, I needed the assistance of a motorist and his son that had pulled over and was directing traffic around a tree blocking one lane of traffic.
Despite my anxiety as to what I would face when I arrived home – a tree had snapped in half in our front yard and taken utility lines with it – I was touched by the displays of random humanity. In a time of crisis, it was refreshing to see.
Of course, it didn’t end with just what I saw.
On Brush Fork Road, motorists stopped in traffic due to fallen trees were rescued, I was told, by Bridgeport City Attorney Dean Ramsey who grabbed a yellow rain coat, a pair of shorts and penny loafers before heading out on his 1980s Ford Tractor and clearing a path. The next day as Police Officers worked in sweltering hit for double digit hours directing traffic around non-working traffic signals, motorists dropped off water and Gatorade, and asked if they could get the officers food. On Sunday, a call for volunteers went out to canvass Bridgeport neighborhoods still without powers and immediately 18 folks showed up and were able to provide assistance to some individuals that may have faced serious consequences otherwise.
I could go on forever telling tales of what I witnessed and stories I’ve been told. And that’s a good thing.
For whatever reason, it often requires to the worst the world has to offer to see the best it has to offer. It was goodness in its purist form. Goodness, I’ve read, is easier to see than to define and during this storm and its aftermath nothing could be more correct.
What I also saw beyond the goodness is that humanity is alive and well. I saw it up close and personal Friday in Bridgeport.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Pictured is Dennis Nappier as he battles the sudden darkness, pouring rain and heavy winds to secure a banner that blew loose and was slapping violently onto Route 50 during the June 29 storm.