I have been deeply concerned about how people with disabilities fared while trapped in the crazy snow gridlock that gripped Atlanta last week. One story makes me feel good about humanity.
Clients of the united Cerebral Palsy of Georgia day program spent 20 hours in a van, trying to travel just 30 miles north from Atlanta, to Marietta. Somehow, their wellness coordinator and driver, Vontana Atkins, kept the five men warm and hydrated with small bottles of water and candy from her purse. Read the story by Valerie Bauerlein in the WSJ, Jan. 30, 2014 here.
While Ms. Atkins heroism is uplifting, the overall calamity is horrifying. First, I refuse to call the two inches of snow that fell on Atlanta roads, a storm. There were no high winds, nor whiteout conditions. There just was a failure between city and state officials to prepare for anything other than a light dusting of SNOW.
First, Gov. Deal ignorantly called the snow “unexpected.” At 3:38 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, the National Weather Service put the entire Atlanta metro area under a winter storm warning. This area is the poster child for suburbanization. Everything and everyone is dependent on the car.
The Atlanta Metropolitan area is sprawled over 28 counties that are about the size of Massachusetts. Every workday, one million cars drive around this area. The Mayor of Atlanta doesn’t control the whole area. There is a patchwork of counties and towns that can be counted on to fail to work together. This led to snow paralyzation. It stranded asix million people, leaving 2,000 children separated from their parents, emergency vehicles trapped in gridlock, and one baby born on I-285. It is a miracle there were no fatalities in the frigid temperature.
While I watched this traffic horror on television, I was grateful that our son who has cerebral palsy and type I diabetes, was safe in his University of West Georgia dorm. Unlike our transportation officials, I knew the snow was coming and would create driving problems. At 8 p.m. Monday night before, I texted our son’s caregiver, to pack a change of clothes because he was probably going to be spending Tuesday night on an aero bed in the dorm room. Our son’s terrific aide, Chris Brown, also knew the snow was coming and said he had already packed his car.
The mother of one of the five men trapped in the United Cerebral Palsy van said she contemplated going out to find her son, but knew it was fruitless. She said the city and state need to focus more on human safety.
The Georgia General Assembly is now in session. Let’s see if they learn.