Answering the call for help

Throughout the region, the power providers CL&P and UI have been roundly criticized for delays in the power coming back to some neighborhoods. Whether the criticism is justified is a post-mortem that certainly will be done by even more legislative committees of inquiry over the next few months. But it certainly is hard to fault the workers -- though UI reported workers being pelted by eggs in Bridgeport -- who were out in the thick of it, trying their best to get the juice flowing again. Some of the workers have been recruited from far and wide.

Richard C. Ilse, a writer who lives in Stamford, offered this testimonial by email:

"Just look at the license plates; they have come from everywhere, even outside the United States. Convoys of power trucks, some traveling over a thousand miles, managing only 45 mph on the interstates. That's as fast as they cruise, they were not meant for this! Lumbering and loaded for bear, they are the out of state cavalry coming over the horizon to help our own homegrown army of power company linesmen, who are sparking things back to life again. They are all taking many of us out of the dark and cold. They are not heroes, but when they park on your street and the lights come flickering back on, they are our saviors.

"They do not normally get applause or even thanks but I have seen it several times in the past week, as these are not normal days. Usually we do not even notice them, or if we do, we find them an annoyance, as we have to funnel our way past them one lane at a time.

"I had a chance to talk to several of these linesmen as they sat down for a hot meal, their only one in the middle of a 16-hour day. At that table, Canada shared a meal with Texas, Ohio and Alabama. Their only common thread or wire being the job they do. A linesman's job is to often go out when the rest of us all want to stay in. From high wire to high voltage, nothing stops them. It does not matter if branches or temperatures are falling. Spend an hour with these guys in those conditions and it makes you proud because you know there is still hardness, a toughness in the American work force.

"To share a meal with these guys makes you realize that they are as different as the parts of the country that they all come from. You remember it is diversity that makes this country so great. Yes, they get double-, even triple-time pay on these junkets and with 16-hour days that's quite a haul. But when you talk to them they will tell you that is not the only reason they came. Too prideful to turn down a call for help, along with a sense of how much they are needed, brought them here!

"I asked them what their journeys here were like and where are they being put up for these nights. Jake from Texas responded, `Did you ever see a cement truck on the interstate crawling along at 45 mph while the rest of the world cruises by at 70 mph.' These trucks are not geared to cruise or fashioned for comfort, making a 1,000 mile ride seem like twice that, and that's just to get on site. As for where they are all being put up, I got four different answers ranging from roadside motels to luxury accommodations. I said the luxury digs must be nice, at which point John from Alabama shot bac, `Maybe so, but with my eyes half shut after16 hour days and being on the ground with my guard down finally, I hardly had a chance to notice.'

"Day after day and longer away, that's the other side of the coin here, as in not what happened to us, but who came to help us. It was not only about our cries for help, but who answered the call. For their tireless work, we thank them all!"