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The Year of the Tree 

Publisher's Note

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It always has to be a Tuesday. That's the day we go to press — all the threads of the Inlander need to be pulled into a complete newspaper in time for the printer and you, the readers. So with word that trees were falling and lights were going out, we raced against time. Down in West Central, we still had power Tuesday afternoon. We sent most of the team home to beat the mess; a few of us stayed to finish up. Another paper done, we set out into the mayhem.

The date? Nov. 19, 1996. That's right, two days short of the 19th anniversary of Ice Storm, we had a do-over here in Spokane — and at Inlander HQ, just a few blocks away from our old office. Again disaster hits on a Tuesday (9/11 was on a Tuesday, too), and our team got another paper out on time. Again, most of us went home to darkness.

For a place that prides itself on being immune to the weird phenomena of the rest of the nation — tornadoes, earthquakes, humidity — our list of disasters has become equally scary. (Don't forget, we even had a volcanic eruption back in 1980.) To me, 2015 will go down as the Year of the Tree, as falling and burning trees have defined it. Maybe our tall, green friends are trying to tell us something?

There are other notable similarities between the blackouts. The next days were surreal, dawning bright and calm, neighbors mobilized to help each other, and we all waited for every scrap of intel from Washington Water Power/Avista (they didn't change their name until 1999). The differences are plain, too — today everybody's desperate to charge their phone. Checking Facebook has taken on a whole new kind of urgency.

It seems we only truly appreciate our land of plenty when it's taken away; it's such a shock, we'll be talking about the hardship for years. It can recalculate our perspective, reminding us that Mother Nature is still in charge.

There are other memorable moments, too: We slow down, see the stars clearly at night, hear the quiet, light some candles and reconnect — even playing those board games we got last Christmas. (And yes, there will be a batch of Wind Storm babies next August.) During Ice Storm, we all camped out at my parents' house, including my grandma Hilda. We told stories, played cards and sat around the fire. It was the last quality time I got to spend with her before she passed away. I'll always remember that part of it.

Finally, Thanksgiving Day approached, and is approaching again, without power for many. These are the times, challenging as they may be, when the notion of thankfulness is no abstraction, the prayer is anything but rote and the food and family are true blessings. ♦

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