I have never before heard such desperation in a woman’s voice. It quivered and ended in a wail over the airwaves of my radio station, as she told listeners she’d been without power for days, with five children and a husband in Iraq. Over a million people were shivering with no lights and heat after the ferocious winter windstorm in Washington State. Hundreds of thousands were listening to one news radio station.
The calls poured in. Other listeners with no power offered the woman firewood, cans of food from their pantry. The woman and her children ended up in a hotel that another listener bought her.
The connections, the phone calls went on for days as people struggled to survive in freezing temperatures. Food rotten in grocery stores and gas stations couldn’t pump. One man I talked to went on the air and said he would buy hotel rooms for five families. People listening on crank radios called and asked for firewood over the air; almost immediately their plea for help would be answered by a neighbor a few blocks away.
The support the community showed for each other during this difficult time was astounding. The reliance on radio was nothing I had ever experienced. I believe in people’s capacity to love and help each other in times of need.
I answered so many phone calls over those few days. One woman told me she was home alone, so cold that day and night she would lie in bed wrapped in blankets, hugging her battery-powered radio. She said without us bringing her the voices of others in her same predicament, she would have felt so alone and scared.
People not only helped each other with food, gas and firewood, they also acted as eyes and ears on the roads. One listener would call and ask if a particular road was passable, minutes later another person would go on the air, saying no, there was a downed tree. I was proud that our radio station could be a conduit for humans helping other humans.
I am used to being in my own bubble in this world. I don’t know my neighbors; I often come home and hang out in my own apartment, cut off from the world. But when catastrophe strikes I work overtime at the radio station, and listen to the power of a human voice, and how it inspires others to open their hearts to strangers.
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