Written by: Jeremy Baumhower
The City of Toledo is having a year to remember… forever. A year that started with it’s worst winter in history, which included the on-duty deaths of two of it’s firefighters, which then evolved into a pot hole epidemic, a media created blight issue and now a full fledged water crisis that has left over 400,000 residents without safe drinking water.
This has been one hell of a year.
As the news broke of Toledo issuing a “Do Not Drink” advisory early Saturday morning on social media; local store’s shelves were being emptied by people buying as many cases of water as they could.
The city’s bottled water supply was gone before I had even woke up at 8:30. I did not panic, I thought it was somehow being overly-hyped. An hour later after hearing reports of fist-fighting over cases of water and the hysteria elevating, I decided to see first hand what was happening on the very streets where I was raised.
There was an energy in every place I walked into; the atmosphere was comparable to the exact moment stores opened on Black Friday, their was feeling of desperation. Stores such as Kroger, Walmart and Target were already completely empty, no aqua to be found. You could watch people hurrying in and out of the businesses on a mission, the walk back to the car emptied-handed was becoming a full-on sprint.
Outdated rumors were flying about which places had water, which did not and who was expecting a shipment. The most credible information I heard came from a videographer from 13ABC, who said “Anderson’s was expecting a shipment within the hour”, so I ventured there.
There is some science that says the act of “yawning” is contagious, I think seeing someone jog into a store might equally be.
As I parked the car, I saw person-after-person leaving the Anderson’s store pushing a cart loaded with 4 cases of water. I think the very sight made people start to jog from their cars to inside. I entered the south entrance of the store and found my way to the unloading dock where hard workers in those blue shirts were busy placing cases of water in customer’s shopping carts. As I followed the line of those waiting to be next, I was amazed to see that it had extended past the food department, the entire span of the store.
There were in excess of 150 plus customers with shopping carts waiting for their opportunity to simply buy a case of water. One could not notice that the math of what was in the Anderson’s loading docks was falling way short of the people waiting in line. Supply versus demand was not in the consumers favor at that hour. I knew it was moments away before an announcement was to be made informing customers they had in fact ran out of water.
I thought I was seconds away from chaos, an unruly mob, angry desperate customers all quenching a need to buy water for their survival; I have never been so wrong in my life.
As the announcement was made informing those waiting in line, I watched in anticipation of people hearing the bad news, I felt like the Grinch the moment of Christmas morning, watching a town expecting the worse. And just like the green villain before me, I was surprised by what was taking place.
There was no outrage, no outcry, no complaints, nor desperate acts. The Toledoans that heard the bad news were smiling, understanding, planning where to go next.
Dr. Seuss himself would have been proud of their reaction.
This is when I was reminded of the character of the place I choose to call home and the people who reside here.
As more news spread about the water shortage and people’s hunt to find some, there was a new trend that was emerging… kindness. People from unaffected areas were driving to the parts that were affected, some with a trunk full of water, others just wanting to help. Northwest Ohioans started organizing volunteer groups and mobilizing; we started to remind others to check on their neighbors, the elderly, our pregnant and families with small children. We started handing a bottle of water to strangers that were thirsty.
Toledo’s heart knew what to do before our elected ever did.
As stories of water being donated multiplied, we also started hearing reports and whispers of price gouging. Social media started to shame all those who were looking to exploit this crisis for personal financial gains. Toledo was now fighting and throwing punches.
For every report of gouging, there were 20 stories of random kindness. Eventually the good deeds stomped out the evil ones; as it always seems to do here.
Something is trying to kill the Glass City, there is a force trying to finish us off. Toledoans are being tested in ways we never dream of before, to see how tough we actually are.
How this city has acted and reacted to each adversity it’s been thrown is beyond inspiring. Not only are are we surviving but our compassion and love for each and this town is shining it’s very brightest.
God just sent the Incredible Hulk to smash our water supply and we are hugging this green beast to death with love.
The City of Toledo is said to be many of things, some say we are “ugly”, others claim this we are “miserable”, and even as far as stating we are “dead”; but I strongly disagree. Toledo is the very definition of the word “community”, we put each other’s needs first, we are loving, charitable and possess a strong sense of faith; we are very much alive, healthy and well. Our brightest moments come from our darkest times.
The easiest way to describe this place is in two words, Toledo Tough. We do get knocked down occasionally, but every time we stand up together.
Toledo Tough is something that is scarred into our DNA, an attribute we inherited from our generations before. To quote Khalil Gibran, “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”
Find me a Toledoan without a scar and I’ll show you a person not from Toledo.
The world has been watching this city over the last 48 hours and I have never been so proud as to say I am Toledo Tough.
Thank you Toledo.