My mother used to say “life can turn on a dime.” Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2005, will be remembered as one of those turn-on-a-dime days in my life.

One minute I was cheerfully plotting the logistics of getting my family in to Wichita to see a production of “Cats”-a special outing to celebrate my birthday.

The next minute, I was in survival mode, worrying about trees hitting my home, getting my husband back from Wichita, and keeping my family warm and fed without electricity.

If I live to be 100, I’ll never forget the thunder-like sounds made by the century-old trees in my yard as they cracked beneath the weight of the ice, the eerie “whoosh” as the giant branches fell through the air, and the earth-shaking thud as they hit the ground.

With a sense of total powerlessness and grief, I watched as my favorite tree, a beautiful shingle oak laden with leaves, succumbed to the storm.

Peabody looked like a tornado had swept through it. Trees were falling everywhere, taking the power lines and electricity down with them.

Nightfall was accompanied by a spooky quietness. Not a light was visible in any direction, and the normally busy main street running in front of our house was deserted.

We gathered the wagons, so to speak. We built a fire in the fireplace, collected oil lamps and flashlights, and started a drip in all the faucets to stave off frozen pipes,

The first 24 hours of “pioneer life” were actually fun. We grilled hot dogs in the fireplace, camped out in the family room, and made phone calls to check on friends and neighbors.

My son Michael says we got to spend some “quality family time” together. We had time for puzzles, games and just plain conversation.

But by the time we’d been without power for 72 hours, the novelty had definitely worn off and we were all ready to return to 21st century life. Most of all I craved a hot shower and clean hair.

When the lights came back on the fourth day, it was amid loud cheering and shouts of joy.

We are counting our blessings and are thankful that life is returning to normal.

And like the thousands of other families affected by the storm, we will be telling our “2005 ice storm” story for years to come.

To me, the most amazing part of the story is about the power of a small community to come together when disaster strikes.

While bigger cities may have more cultural events, shopping opportunities, and professional sports teams, there is no rivaling the genuine caring and concern that blankets you in a small town when events occur such as those of the past week.

Throughout the whole ordeal, I marveled at how the whole town pitched in to help. As Peabody City Treasurer Stephanie Ax said, “People just saw a need and they took care of it.”

Although it would have been easy to focus on how miserable we were during the power outage, there were so many things to be thankful for. Although the list could go on and on, here are a few folks to whom I want to extend my personal thanks.

— The City of Peabody for canvassing the town on foot Wednesday morning to check on residents and offer emergency shelter.

— The emergency shelters that provided warm accommodations for those displaced by the cold.

— The emergency crews who congregated at the Peabody Fire and Emergency Medical Services station to be ready to deal with any emergency that arose.

— The crews who evacuated and relocated residents at Westview Manor, Legacy Park and Indian Guide.

— Rick Turner, Peabody Market owner, who made and distributed hot soup to the cold and hungry.

— The Gordon Wiebe family of Whitewater, who brought us a load of firewood when they were without power themselves, and the Teafords, for chipping out a stack of ice-covered logs to tide us over until our firewood supply arrived

— Peabody Hardware and Lumber, for providing the supplies we needed to weather the storm.

— The employees of the Peabody Market and Sharon’s Korner Kitchen who worked long hours to provide food to the community and work crews.

— The media who braved the storm and spent time away from their families to help us stay connected to the outside world.

— Bill Dutton, of Dutton Tree Service, who made an emergency visit when the large tree hanging over our property broke loose and landed on our neighbor’s roof.

— The utility crews who drove into town from all over the region to restore power and services.

— The city crews who removed tree limbs and debris from yards and hauled it away.

— And all the volunteers throughout the city who helped in some way, large or small.

We owe you all a debt of gratitude.

Janet Hamous is a news and feature writer for the Free Pres.

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