I'm reminded of a similar post from earlier this month. This sense of community is something that America owes to our parochial roots. Small towns are what Tocqueville calls the primary schools of democracy, and there's truth to that: it's only by interacting directly with our neighbors that we can instill in ourselves an instinctual recognition for the value of cooperation and the trust necessary to overcome momentary self-interest in the name of long-term collective advantage.
It's an unfortunate truth that, high "rankings" or not, one sometimes has to work harder to show faculty recruits and others why they might want to live in a college town, let alone one in the Deep South. Having clerked in the state, I had no such questions when my wife, our two young children, and I decided to move to Tuscaloosa. In the midst of what is unquestionably a crisis, I am even more confirmed in my view that what sets apart places like this is a powerful sense of community. I am friends with my law school colleagues, of course, and (especially here) with my students too. But our community stretches beyond that, taking in the larger university community, the neighbors who took us in to wait out the tornado, the children who have befriended my children and become part of our extended family, the friends and strangers who have stayed in our home these past two nights, and the many friends who brought food and company when our son was born prematurely here some two years ago.
Mawkishly but fittingly, I am often reminded, living here, of the closing lines in To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Scout muses on the ways in which friends and neighbors in a genuine community help without question and create debts that can never be repaid -- without ever so much as thinking about those debts, because that is just what one does for one's own. If asked, I wouldn't hesitate, even and perhaps especially now, to tell people that Tuscaloosa is my town and that I love it.
Of course, this type of community isn't absent from larger cities. This winter, when the massive blizzard hit Chicago,
But moments like this in the city are rare. It's too easy to become anonymous, to think that anything you do won't matter. The city reminds us of our utter insignificance in the face of the vast universe. The town reminds us of what we are capable of when we work together.
City officials estimated as many as 900 cars were caught in the jam; an AP photographer at the scene counted at least 1,500.
Orozco said more than 130 firefighters, some on snowmobiles, and 100 police officers were sent to the road. As they sat and waited, the stranded motorists gratefully gobbled down granola bars and drank coffee and Gatorade, brought to them by Good Samaritans who climbed fences and railings to deliver them.