Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Salena Zito: This Small Town's Sense of Community is no Accident

 HOT SPRINGS, Virginia -- Where the tidy brick sidewalks end at the edge of the business district, the carnage was jarring. Two cars had their roofs sheared off. Shattered glass was strewn everywhere. In the distance, an older van was upturned, on its roof, alongside two vehicles on their sides and another car in a ditch, completely upside down and touching the creek.

        Known colloquially as Sam Snead Highway, the winding road that hugs the Allegheny Mountains and serves as the thoroughfare for this charming town is still damp from a violent evening downpour. The initial assumption is that all six vehicles met this gruesome fate after hydroplaning on the single-lane highway.

        But that assumption is wrong -- as good a lesson as any for never judging a book by its cover, even when the evidence is visually overwhelming.

Greg Burton, the head of Westrock Rescue Squad, teaches local first responder volunteers how to quickly and safely extract crash victims after an accident. Photo credit Salena Zito.

        Greg Burton is among 20 or so people who showed up to help extract these vehicles from their shattered state. Yet, he appeared to possess no sense of urgency. Dressed in gray overalls with reflective piping, a rescue patch, and a white hard hat, he was not in charge of a true accident scene. He was, rather, in charge of training rescue volunteers. They huddled in teams of five around several different life-and-death scenarios that required an appropriate perception and response from those first on the scene.

        "So, I'm an instructor for this class that trains local volunteer firefighters and emergency first-responders," Burton said. "But I'm a volunteer as well."

        Burton, from nearby Covington, is part of the Westrock Rescue Squad based inside the massive paper mill where he works. Burton said they were simulating different kinds of car crashes that the volunteers might happen upon at any given time.

        "So, these two cars here, we simulated an accident of a car is on its wheels like you see it, but we had to take the doors off," he said. "We call this vehicle extrication, so if somebody's trapped inside of a car, we teach them different things they might have to do to get them out of the car. So, we did basically the same maneuvers with the cars on their side and the cars that are completely rolled over and teach them what they are going to do to secure it and get patients out of it."

        Everyone at the class will be one of those first on the scene when duty calls.

        The sense of community is evident everywhere in this small tourist town of fewer than 4,500 people.

        Seth Ellis is normally behind the counter of Bacova Beer Company, the distillery he opened a couple of years ago. He quickly joined the local chamber of commerce and then decided to add a restaurant. It opened last year during the height of the pandemic in one of the most restrictive states in the country.

        Ellis smiled and shrugged at the timing and explained that he did beer runs locally and regionally, traveling as far away as Charlottesville to stay afloat. He and his wife settled here years ago when she took a job with the forest service. He is from Alabama, and she is from Ohio. "But this community is home," he said. "I love the sense of everyone having each other's back."

        Miguel Rosado came to Hot Springs from Puerto Rico five years ago and brought his family with him. "Things were not good there, and I wanted a better life and opportunities for my family," he told me. Rosado said he took a job with the Homestead resort, and within a year, he had his own home and had put down roots. During an impromptu tour of the hotel's William McKinley presidential suite, he spied an ancient map of the island he once called home hanging on the wall, a tribute to the peace treaty McKinley signed with the Spanish government, which ceded Puerto Rico to the United States in 1898.

        Pointing to a town on the map across the bay from San Juan, Rosado said, "This is where I am from."

        With her chestnut hair pulled up in a ponytail, Debbie Young was overseeing the volunteers, who she said respond to approximately 350 calls a year. "The incidents range from heart attacks on the trails or at the hotel to tourists not quite knowing how to navigate the steep and winding roads," she said.

        The age range of the volunteers spans from 24 to 60, Young said. Many are legacy volunteers whose fathers' fathers' fathers did the same thing for their community in their own time.

        Many assumptions about small-town America are disproven over the course of the afternoon. Hot Springs is filled with stories about aspiration, respect and hope, told by people with genuine diversity of color, roots and background who call this place home.

        Theirs is a way of life that can be found in all of the towns nestled in the nooks and crannies of America, something few people experience, instead of flying overhead or zipping by on an interstate.

        A passing motorist might assume that the grisly scene apparently unfolding on the old "valley road" is genuine. If you don't stop and listen to people with lives very different from your own, you might never really know the rest of the story.

        Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.



Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

How is this relevant to us?

Anonymous said...

Clearly it is not relevant. Good observation. We are nowhere close to any kind of “community” feel and nobody really wants to be. Too much fun to be divided and pissed off all the time.

Anonymous said...

With the Defund the LEO folks in full bloom, can we applaud some first responders?

Time Jumper said...

It's morning now. Dawn has broken. Have some coffee and read it again. The spirit presented here is what Jackson was sixty years ago as men in grey business suits poured into the Electric Building after gathering for breakfast at the Mayflower. That Oldsmobile convertible at the curb belongs to Baxter Wilson who's been hired in the sales group. He'll be president of MP&L in six years. Primos downtown for lunch. Augie File is graduating this year from Murrah. Woody is already at his desk working on today's forecast. There's a group of young women walking their usual three miles over by First Baptist. First responders that were not called by that term then are carefully unloading a wreck victim from an accident over on 51 as work on 55 nears completion. Nobody was shot last night. Or this week. Or last week. Or even last month.

PittPanther said...

5:11am, the Jackson of 60 years ago put into motion the steps that led us to the Jackson of 2021. But I'm sure in your eyes they are completely unrelated.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS