Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the hailstorm that damaged a good portion of Safford.
A year later and we hear stories of individuals and businesses still dealing with the fallout from that freak storm.
There’s a man in Little Hollywood living in a single room in his house — the only room undamaged by the storm — while insurance and contractors took a year to settle up and begin work on repairs.
Businesses have come and gone, churches moved into new spaces to worship and even torn down to make way for a new building all because the damage was so severe.
On Saturday, we reported on the miraculous recovery by Safford schools. We say miraculous because those schools continued to perform excellently — in this issue you’ll find a story about Safford schools earning two “A’s,” two “B’s” and one “C” from the Arizona Department of Education, despite two of those schools being closed for half the year and the students crammed into small classrooms in the other schools.
Even we here at the Courier have had to deal with a year’s worth of fallout from the storm — debating coverage with insurers, waiting on contractors and discovering new leaks when rains have hit the Valley.
As big as that storm was — and it was a doozy — something bigger came from it: A community that rallied around those in trouble.
In the weeks following the storm, there was always a new story about how members of the community were helping each other, whether it was students using time off school while the buildings were being cleaned to help clear streets and help at the homes individual property owners, to the Safford Lions Club convincing the national foundation to contribute money for food so homeowners could direct their limited cash to immediate safety repairs.
Neighbors helped each other, often without being asked, because there was someone in need. Elected officials; and city, town and county staff spent a number of sleepless nights doing what was needed to ensure residents remained safe.
We now know the damage we suffered pales in comparison to what the residents of Puerto Rico and other Caribbean islands have gone through following the recent hurricanes. And, of course, we dealt with another major catastrophe when the Frye fire burned large swaths of Mount Graham over the summer.
But the fact that others have it worse doesn’t mean that, at the time, there wasn’t legitimate worry in this community. And the community rallied to ensure that no one was forgotten.
We bring this all up in the hopes that, when we go to social media or talk with friends, and find ourselves in a heated political debate, or one of racial or gender issues, we remember that these arguments are just a sideshow. What’s really important is how we look after each other.
The Gila Valley has shown that, in times of crisis, we can put away the bread and circuses and do what best for all. Let’s try to do that every day.