Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wilma 24

Mexico has no FEMA. After a disaster, the government helps as best it can, but mostly it is left to the people themselves to get on with their lives using whatever resources they have available to them. Which usually is not much. However, it was different this time. Very different.

The government jumped into action at an almost incredible speed. As soon as Wilma was safely out of the way, helicopters started landing, bringing with them precious supplies of bottled water and food supplies. Wave after wave of helicopters were landing and being unloaded by the military. Most of the supplies were then transported to the Red Cross who did a fantastic job of distributing everything. At first, they came door to door with water but later, as I have mentioned, they made people come to them. Either way, it was an impressive display of how an organization like the Red Cross should work.

As soon as the car ferry could run and the road was cleared to it, the trucks with new water pipes, power poles, spools of electric wire and all kinds of supplies like that to rebuild our infrastructure were transported here. Included in this were the CFE trucks and workers.
There were CFE trucks here from Monterrey, Sinola, Nuevo Loredo and Saltillo. All cities or states in the northern part of Mexico, a long journey from here. And 150 workers came with them. These guys worked 24 hours around the clock to get our electric up and running again. Each shift worked 12 hours a day in a 15 day rotation. The first wave cleared out all the downed lines and poles. They were followed by the crews setting new poles and then the guys who climbed these poles and put up the wire. They did just a tremendous job.

And their work did not go unappreciated by most of the residents here either. People would take them food, Coke, water, give them anything they had just to say thank you to them for the great job they were doing. CFE paid for their hotel rooms and the island paid for their breakfast. Any other meal they had to pay for themselves. Many restaurants (and people) thought this unfair. As a result, as more and more of the power was restored, these guys found themselves being treated to free meals and drinks at various restaurants downtown.

They started with the grid downtown, on the north end of the island, and worked their way south. Since we are 3 miles from downtown, we knew it would take a while to reach us. All in all, we were only without electricity for 12 days! I think that is a miracle. We were thinking that it would be months, based on all the destruction we had seen driving back to the island. Say what you will about the Mexican government and its’ undeniable corruption, but when the chips were done, it behaved admirably and got the job done. (compare this to New Orleans!)

B and I stopped by our friend’s restaurant downtown one night. Many of you know it. Fredy’s. There was a group of ten CFE workers eating and drinking in front. Fredy apologized that he had hardly any food left but could make us a fish fillet and that was all. He said the CFE guys had eaten every bit of food he had on hand, plus drank all the beer. (by this time, most of downtown had electricity and the drinking ban had been lifted) We told him that that was great news, now he had a bit of income to help out. He just shook his head no. He said that the CFE workers were his guests. He was giving them whatever they wanted for free! This was his way of saying thank you to them for helping all of us in our time of need. We were dumbstruck at this. He needed money badly after the storm and could have charged them, or just opened up as normal. Instead he chose to be a good Samaritan, expecting no pat on the back and nothing in return. I have a deep respect of him for doing this.

But he wasn’t alone, we knew this was going on all over downtown. We just had not encountered it so up close and personal.

At any rate, thank you CFE for a job well done!!!

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