Here’s how Irene brought out the best in people

    If you’d like to get a glimpse into what a hurricane did to the mind of at least one Philadelphian, here’s a weekend Tweet and Facebook status update from yours truly.

    First, this tweet from late Saturday night, when weather prognostications seemed likely to cost PECO a whole lot of overtime man hours: “If power’s really out for two weeks in Philly, I have ‘day two’ and ‘Juniata Park’ in the ‘First Reported Case of Cannibalism’ pool.”

    Now, the Facebook status update from dinnertime Sunday: “You know why big weather stories are fun to cover? Because nobody’s being an a—— except the weather.”

    Granted, the feasting-on-human-flesh message was tongue-in-cheek, no pun intended. It bears mentioning, though, as an example of the range of emotions associated with major weather events.

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    Hurricane Irene started with the fear of the unknown. We didn’t know how hard we’d get hit, just that we would take some sort of unusual shot to the gut. Hurricanes don’t regularly rope-a-dope major mid-Atlantic metropolitan areas, after all.

    That fear was intensified by the frightening (especially for a relatively new parent) tornado warnings that sent some of us to our basements. Those regular the-worst-is-yet-to-come warnings didn’t help matters much, either. But even a total cynic would agree that officials erring on the side of too much caution is better than officials playing the fend-for-yourselves card.

    Then came Sunday morning.

    When we saw it wasn’t a catastrophic event, except for those 25-and-counting families that tragically lost loved ones, there came a collective sigh of relief where we acted as people act when they’re at their best.

    The checking-in to make sure everything’s all right with the neighbors.

    The talking to random passersby on the street with the type of smile that accompanies shared experiences.

    The aforementioned “no a——-” in sight” dynamic.

    I saw it Sunday all over the crowd that ebbed and flowed and ebbed at the corner of Midvale and what would have been Kelly Drive hadn’t it been temporarily claimed by the Schuylkill.

    Total strangers discussing various theories on who the heck left that red car on River Road. And taking pictures of one another wading into the puddle so they could have a keepsake from a memorable day in Philadelphia weather history. And showering both Mayor Michael Nutter and Gov. Tom Corbett with kind greetings, regardless of political affiliation, when they arrived to tell the city the worst was behind us.

    I heard it in the tale one police officer told me as the water crept up Midvale. An hour earlier, someone had brought his pet Labrador retriever, assured the officer that the pooch was well behaved and let her off leash.

    At which point the pet Labrador retriever, anything but well behaved, sprinted into the water.

    “‘Babette! Babette! Babette! Oh my God, get out of there! Officer, officer, you’re going to help me get Babette, right?’ he started yelling,” the officer recounted. “A Labrador is a water dog. What did he expect to happen? I told him just to walk away, that’s how you’ll get the dog out of the water.”

    Sure enough, when Babette saw her owner walking away, Babette sprinted out of the water. Casualty averted.

    Funny story created on a day when the heftiest arrests were those of some dudes who decided to raft down Main Street. Silly crimes are a nice change of pace, aren’t they?

    Of course, all of that calm-after-the-storm good will won’t be around for too long, if it isn’t gone already. The whole 9/11-to-venomous-political debate devolution taught us that.

    There’s nothing wrong about taking a moment to bask in what it feels like, though, because it’s such a welcome change to watch people treat one another with kindness, care and mutual respect to face down a common enemy.

    That it could’ve been tougher than it ended up being is of little import. So is the conversation about sensationalized storms.

    It’s just nice to be reminded that we live in a city and region that – despite all the bluster and posturing – genuinely cares enough about itself that it refuses to resort to cannibalism when the lights go out.

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