There were two big differences between Sandy for us and many past storms.
First, we did not lose power (yet) which is a real plus. Second, since we continued to have Internet access it was remarkable the active interaction with friends and near-friends who were close and geographically far away.
Our Sandy experience started in Williamsburg, WV, where Ellen and I had gone early to attend the ACT-IAC Executive Leadership Conference (ELC). My brilliant idea was to stay at a B&B rather than the conference hotels since we really like B&B’s and this allowed Ellen to feel like it was a bit more of a vacation from home since she gets to wander around Williamsburg while I go to the meetings.
Based on the weather forecast and the now a bit more complicated getting back and forth issues in the rain, the brilliant idea was starting to appear not so brilliant. We went to an informal ACT-IAC kickoff event Saturday, went to dinner, and then took a Williamsburg Pirates evening tour, which I would recommend to anyone who has not been on it. Interspersed with interesting information about Blackbeard, the focus of the tour, were three actors and actresses who played different historical characters who were involved with Blackbeard and his eventual death.
Sunday we started wandering around Williamsburg in the rain, getting an excellent tour of the Governor’s Palace when we received an email from ACT-IAC announcing the cancellation of the conference. I, being stubborn (and stupid) was all ready to just stay and continue the tour in the pouring rain. Ellen being wiser and more thoughtful (as usual) felt that if the conference was canceled the visit should be also and off we returned to Washington and our house.
Monday we spent all day waiting for the power to give out and/or trees to collapse around us. Happily, typing this Tuesday morning, none of this happened.
Reading tweets and in particular Facebook posts it was amazing how much interaction there was. Personal status updates on how things were at people’s houses and neighborhoods. Responses and long threads from old friends or even long ago acquaintances who reached out to check about our situation. I messaged back and forth with both daughters, one in Northern Virginia and one in Brooklyn; as well as with a number of people I have worked with in the past.
There was a long thread about what to caption a port-o-potty that had been flipped on its side; comments on what exactly post-tropical meant; and lots of chatter from those who were grateful to still have power (and a few from those who lost it but still had active tablets, smart phones, or in one case a generator).
It became the functional equivalent of an electronic small town with participants checking on each other, many with offers of help if required.
Those people who do not use social media tools at all, and thus would not be reading this anyway, really have no idea about the power to support interaction that it has. While I recognize that the facebook circle of friends is not the same as those I call family or those I see on a regular basis through work or socially, friends they still are and in times like this more so.
One final thing, my heart also goes out to Casey Coleman, GSA CIO, and Ted Davies of Unisys, the co-chairs of the event, as well as Ken Allen, the ACT-IAC Executive Director, the ACT-IAC staff who worked so hard on supporting the program and all of the volunteers. People who have not participated in setting up a conference like ACT-IAC have no idea how much effort goes into it, and how the conference leadership gives of itself to make it successful.
Canceling the conference, while the smart thing to do, I am sure was a very difficult decision to make. They should be proud of what effort they put into the conference and especially proud of the professional way they handled making the decision to cancel it.