STUART KORFHAGE: I got by with a little help with my friends

There wasn’t any George Bailey moment for me. And, luckily, my situation was not nearly so dire, but I just noticed Friday morning how the trickle of little gestures had started to add up.

 

It was just a text I got from someone in the community telling me I could call anytime if I needed help after my personal Irma disaster, which is probably too serious a word.

The person who contacted me is not somebody I’m close to, but a very friendly guy who I talk to for help with stories every once in a while. But it was a genuine offer of assistance in a time of difficulty, one of so many I’ve received.

Oh, what is this difficulty I speak of?

Well, the magnificent live oak that graced my backyard before it was ever anyone’s backyard came down on my roof during the storm. Actually, some of it came through the roof in several different places.

It’s a tragedy because every tree like that in this increasingly clear-cut county is a treasure. For me, it’s just an inconvenience. Actually, I’m a pretty big whiner, so I’ll call it a major inconvenience.

But the truth is that it would have been much worse without the amazing response from the people who live here in the community. When I say worse, I mean buckled knees and emotional breakdown. That’s not hyperbole.

It was a real struggle not to panic Monday morning when one of my neighbors texted my wife that the tree was through the house. So we rushed over once the storm had cleared, knowing things were going to be bad.

When we arrived, with a shaky wife and two wary children, I discovered that our house had become something of a tourist attraction for half the neighborhood.

That didn’t really provide me much comfort. But before I had any real time to process the damage, some of my neighbors were already offering to get their chainsaws and help me drag the beast off the roof. Half of them probably don’t even know my name.

I declined that assistance because the job was too massive for a street full of well-intentioned dudes with two days worth of cabin fever.

I’m sure they would have worked on it all day if I had allowed it. But, frankly, I was afraid somebody would get killed by a runaway branch or log.

The task called for a professional crew. And guess what? I had one of them in my neighborhood.

One of the guys just down the street has a tree service and drove by while I looked on helplessly as 25 years worth of firewood rested on my house.

“You need some help?”

Man, did I.

I don’t think it was 20 minutes later before a bucket truck and a small crew of tree cutters materialized at my house and started sawing right through my grief.

We weren’t just standing around anymore, we were already making progress. (In full disclosure, I still stood around a lot.)

It was the first amazing response of many to my predicament. And they’ve all come from people who don’t owe me anything.

I’d been lucky enough to stay in a hotel while my power had been off — because the tree also hit the line.

And if that hadn’t worked out, I’ve had so many offers from people to stay with them, I’m considering selling the house when it gets repaired and just bounce around from friend to friend for a year or so, claiming that I’m still trying to get the work done.

It’s been amazing. My insurance agent in town offered to lend me his personal generator.

My friend who is a first responder and was sequestered in the communications center for three or four days during the storm almost demanded that she be allowed to make us dinner and help clean up our home.

There have been others who have helped me find people to do emergency work on the house. Heck, I got the name of an electrician on Thursday, and he did work for me on Friday — working around his physical therapy appointments.

The list goes on, and you’ll see here that I’m not putting in any specific names because there would be someone I forgot to mention. I’ve just been overwhelmed with offers of assistance, and every time I’ve accepted, the people have come through.

I’m glad I haven’t needed every offer, but I know that they are all genuine.

So to all of St. Johns County, I say thank you. I’ve lived here longer than any other place except for the city where I was born (Louisville, Kentucky). But I’ve never felt more like a local in my life.

Maybe that’s why people will stay here even when they’ve dealt with misfortune 100 times worse than me, perhaps even two years in a row.

Our structures can’t weather every storm, but apparently our people can — as long as we’re there to hold each other up sometimes.

 

More

BETSY MCCAUGHEY: War on Cops goes to court

The war on cops is moving from the streets to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier this month, the Justices heard a case that threatens police officers with financial ruin if they make arrests, and the charges later get dropped.

Read more