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A focused effort

During Ashland's great flood of 1974 I was continuously inspired by the fact that a common emergency brings out the best in everyone. Generosity, selflessness and camaraderie sprang forth, gluing the town together at all levels, resulting in such a tight bond between us all that we felt that anything was possible.

We shared food, water, shelter and tools as we stood tall as a town. I have longed for that feeling over the ensuing years.

Hundreds of strangers instantly became friends. There were no conservatives or liberals, hippies or rednecks, locals or tourists anyone who pitched in to help became an instant member of the community. In the basement of Perrine's, a long-time department store (originally called Vaupel's atop which now stands Alex's), dozens of volunteers bent their backs to spare the inventory from rising waters. Patrons of the Log Cabin, a favorite local Plaza tavern, passed through the swift current by means of a stout, taut rope tied from Lithia Grocery's pot belly stove to a truck's front bumper parked across the street. Strategically placed sandbags deflected the torrent and protected the main levels, yet ultimately all the basements were flooded as water found its way between the buildings.

Lifetime bonds were formed in seconds as names were exchanged between the labored breathing. When nothing more could be done for the Plaza, the flood brigade moved to where more work was needed. It was a rare opportunity to observe and feel

a commonality that one usually only finds in war or national emergencies.

The other day I noticed that all was not well on the Plaza. Squad cars swarmed the Plaza, though the officers were missing. I happened upon officer Teri DeSilva and in an instant she communicated that a three year-old boy had gone missing. I got a description and wheeled toward the upper duck pond on my Segway.

As I traveled through Lithia Park I spotted what seemed like dozens of police officers, parents, locals and visitors fanning out in a rapid and thorough search of the area. The word soon spread and more volunteers joined in the search. Every bush, tree, structure and cranny was explored thoroughly. Though it was unspoken we all feared the worst and hoped for the best, giving the searchers a jolt of adrenaline that kicked things up a notch.

The park was surprisingly full of people as word of the disappearance spread. Every parent was counting kids and more than a few adults were jogging in their street clothes while they scanned from side to side. Gatherings melted away as the able bodied joined the widening search. Every car was visually inspected by many dozens of increasingly desperate eyes. Radios squawked, paths patrolled and hidden spots revealed, anything untoward would be reported as the search for clues intensified.

After about 25 minutes I again came upon Teri, who was smiling broadly. She beamed that the boy had been found deep in the park and had just been reunited with his much-relieved family. All was well.

A representative cross-section of Ashland had dropped what they were doing and joined hands for the common good. I could not help but think back to the flood as I reflected on how quickly people pitched in to help in both instances. I was proud of the response of the police department in the search, as well as that of the general public.

It was, again, Ashland at its best.

Lance has been informed that his "Essentially Ashland The Missing Years" is at the printer. Unfortunately, they seem to be using an exact replica of the Gutenberg press, which is putting a time squeeze on the process. Lance was last seen with both arms stretched into his telephone headset, seemingly putting the squeeze on someone.