Storms squeeze the best out of us

Published 2:04 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2017


Guest columnist

Storms bring out the best in our country and commonwealth while introducing us to heroes like Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez, who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving his community.

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Perez, a 34-year law enforcement veteran, could have called it in during Hurricane Harvey’s assault on South Texas.

Instead, he left home, as always, determined to report for duty on Aug. 27.

This dedicated officer didn’t make it, drowning in 16 feet of water while trudging toward his post.

Firefighters unfurled a large American flag outside Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston, while Perez’s son, Maverick, told hundreds of funeral mourners inside that his father was someone “we knew … was doing something big. He had a calling.”

Irma hero Sister Margaret Ann wasn’t about to let downed trees stand in her way.

CBS Miami’s cameras caught up with the nun dressed in full habit, chainsaw in hand, clearing trees from the roadways around Archbishop Coleman Carroll High School, where she serves as principal.

The best part isn’t that Sister Margaret Ann grabbed a chainsaw, but that, as word of her efforts spread — a Miami-Dade Police tweet of the sister has garnered nearly 12,000 likes and more than 5,000 retweets and 442 comments as I write this column — it “spurred others in the community to pitch in clearing debris as well,” the station reported.

When America’s squeezed, it doesn’t run and hide. It reports for duty, grabs a chainsaw and stirs others to act.

When squeezed, what’s really inside spills out.

Statues, shootings and racial anger dominated the front pages … until America was squeezed, really squeezed.

Have you noticed that when America’s really squeezed, racism’s dividing lines and cynicism get replaced by courage, sacrifice and a caring spirit for all people come out and spill over in the face of the storm?

Squeezing isn’t limited to hurricanes in the South, either.

Sometimes it’s storms striking families in the North, like the DeKlyens of Wyoming, Michigan.  

Before their storm, Nick and Carrie DeKlyen planned to grow old together while watching their five children grow up and start families.

Then, Carrie DeKlyen was diagnosed in April with an aggressive form of cancer. 

DeKlyen enrolled in a clinical trial at the University of Michigan before discovering she was pregnant.

Doctors told her the pregnancy would have to be terminated if she wanted to receive cancer treatments.

She made her choice, giving birth on Sept. 6 via cesarean section while in a coma to Life Lynn DeKlyen before dying.

A storm may have squeezed the life out of Carrie DeKlyen, but what spilled out was, as a friend at her funeral described, “a legacy of love.”

Sometimes economic cyclones hit border states, like Kentucky, where a $40 billion-plus pension threatens our entire economic health and future.

As the squeeze tightens, what’s really on the inside of this commonwealth will manifest.

Asked during a recent Facebook Live Q&A session whether teachers concerned about potential future changes in their pension benefits might retire en masse, Gov. Bevin said: “If you happen to be a teacher who would walk out on your classroom in order to serve what’s in your own personal best interest at the expense of your children, you probably should retire.”

Bevin took heat for that part of the statement from many who ignored what he added: “And yet I know for a fact that almost all of you teachers that are watching this don’t think that way.”

The governor’s convinced and we should be hopeful that with a full pension-squeeze underway, the unity and willingness to work together for the common good we know in our spirit is at the heart of Kentucky will push out, be unfurled and on full display in the days to come.  

Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. He can be reached at and @bipps on Twitter.