Dennis the Hurricane has come and gone

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 14, 2005

Hank Sanders / State Senator

Dennis is coming!

What are we going to do about 21C (21st Century Youth Leadership) Camp?

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I didn’t understand because I didn’t know Dennis the Hurricane was on its way.

It was all over the TV and radio but I had not seen or heard.

These words flew from the mouth of Faya Rose, one of the moving forces for the leadership camp.

Dennis is coming!

I could not help but think of the T. V. Character, Dennis the Menace.

That Dennis was harmless and humorous. Dennis the Hurricane is a real menace.

“They say Dennis could be as bad as Ivan the Terrible!” said Dr. Carol P. Zippert, another of those providing leadership for 21st Century.

This was early Friday.

They were expecting more than 100 youth, age 12-20, for the nine-day leadership camp from late Friday, July 8, through Saturday, July 16th.

Should they allow the youth to come?

If they came, should they end the camp Sunday morning?

Should they stay because the building was safer than many of the youth’s homes?

It was a dilemma.

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

“Dennis could be as bad as Ivan.

It will hit your district real hard, especially Wilcox&Monroe Counties.

We are going to do everything possible.

We are better prepared than we were for Ivan.

Here’s my cell number.

Call me anytime.”

These words came from Billy Atchison with Alabama Power Company in the Selma area.

He was on 24-hour duty. Billy was so concerned but so determined to help.

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

“Mr. Sanders, I ordered some plywood to board the office windows.

Ms. Curtis will get someone to put it up.”

These words came late Friday from Edna Bryant, our assistant office manager.”

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

My hopes leaped when I heard over satellite radio that Hurricane Dennis had dropped to a category one storm after trampling Cuba, leaving death and destruction in its wake.

Then the news hit that Dennis had risen from a category one to a category two.

My hopes fell.

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

As soon as I got back in cell phone range after visiting the 21C Camp in Suttle, the recorded message beckoned and I responded.

The voice said, “This is Robin Stone.

The Governor is flying by helicopter to Monroe County to meet with local officials at the airport.

The time is 3:00 p.m.

Come if you can.”

Monroe is one of the nine counties I represent but I could not make it because it was after 2:00 p.m. when I received the message and the trip was an hour and a half.

“We don’t know whether to stay or go back. We want what is best for the children.

The gym on this former school building is solid brick.

What do you think is best?”

It was a question but it was also a statement by Norma Jackson, another 21st Century leader. Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

“Senator, I need your help.

We are trying to set up an emergency special needs center for persons on respirators and other life support equipment.

The state EMA refuses to allow us to set one up.

They say we can go to Montgomery, Prattville or Greenville. I told them that is unacceptable.”

The Mayor of Selma, James Perkins, Jr. was concerned, caring and determined.

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

Robin Stone answered the phone on the first ring.

“Senator Sanders, I’m glad you called me back.

The Governor is setting up an emergency conference call at 6:30 tonight, Sunday and Monday to keep legislators and other governmental officials up-to-date.

Here’s the 800 number.

Anything I can do, just

call me.”

I seized the opportunity.

“Robin” I said, “You can help. The Mayor of Selma is trying to set up an emergency special needs center in the Selma Convention Center.

He is running into road blocks.”

Robin promised to do what he could. Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

Dennis shifted from a category two to category three hurricane to a category four and bordered on a category five.

My last hopes dissipated. It seemed that we had to face Dennis the Hurricane in all its menacing fury.

Dennis the Hurricane was coming!

Before the Dennis arrived, I had many conversations about Dennis. Some imparted information.

Some sought help. Some provided help. So many were working to minimize the potential damage.

Dennis the Hurricane Menace was coming!

21st Century decided to ride out the storm with everyone coming through safely.

A compromise solution to the emergency special needs center was forged.

Alabama Power provided regular updates and brought in hundreds of workers and a myriad of equipment.

The Governor was Johnny on the Spot providing reassurances, directing

evacuation, etc.

The mayor and other officials were doing everything possible.

Dennis came but it was not nearly as bad as we had feared.

Dennis the Hurricane Menace has come and gone but we live on, our hopes triumphing over our fears.

I was glad so many prepared because it is better to be safe than sorry.