CITY STREETS looked like war zones in the early hours of June 27, after a major wind storm swept through many communities in Western Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
Straight-line winds of up to 80 mph broke off branches, uprooted trees, knocked down power poles and were accompanied by torrents of rain or hail in some places. In the storm's wake more than 40,000 Tri-State homes and businesses were without power, and emergency responders often had to cut their way through fallen trees to reach those in need of help.
Only those who experienced the storm and its aftermath can fully appreciate the recovery that has occurred in nearly two weeks.
Heroes were seemingly everywhere.
Hundreds of volunteers with chain saws took on downed trees and limbs, sometimes in teams, family units or individually. Lumber mills, construction companies and private owners helped with heavy equipment that made cleanup possible in hours, rather than days or weeks.
More than 1,000 utility workers from this region, and responding from elsewhere, worked to restore electric service in large segments of Western Illinois and Northeast Missouri.
The American Red Cross set up shelters, such as one in the Quincy Family Resource Center, where people who did not have electricity could be fed and kept cool. Many churches opened their doors and businesses helped out in a variety of ways.
Emergency personnel were kept busy. The Quincy Fire Department had more than 100 calls to sort through in the hours after the storm. Many volunteer fire departments manned their stations or went door-to-door, checking on neighbors.
City workers in stricken communities hauled brush, cleared streets and generally pitched in to help.
Individual property owners often tackled their own clean-ups or helped neighbors.
For the vast majority of people, things returned to relative normalcy with the restoration of electric service. Only scattered locations did not have power within 72 hours of the outage. Tons of spoiled food had to be discarded from homes where freezers had thawed.
Storm damage remains visible along the 200 miles of Quincy streets, where brush collections are expected to take months.
The June wind storm triggered a unified recovery effort that Tri-State residents have come to expect during floods or after storms.
People who helped out with acts of kindness can be proud of their own efforts and those of friends and neighbors. The fact that so many heroes do not see themselves in that light does not change the facts. Few heroes are comfortable claiming that title.
History will show that the wind storm of June 2011 was a powerful force of nature, but was no match for the grit, determination and best intentions of the people of this region.