There's a benefit to fighting all those floods here in Fargo-Moorhead, especially the big ones like 2009.
We've learned to trust our local governments, generally.
I say generally because, as Americans, we never truly put 100 percent trust in our leaders. It's in our DNA, as a people, to always cast a wary eye toward government.
But locally, other than the handful of cranks who are continually griping about their property taxes or special assessments (once in a while with good reason), we mostly look at our mayors, city councils, county commissions and the like as good folks trying to do their best.
Part of this trust comes from our flood fights. Many of our local government leaders are people we've come to know, or feel we've come to know, through televised briefings or radio interviews or maybe even personal interaction. And they've given us good information before. Not that everything in every jurisdiction's been smooth all the time, but it mostly has.
That matters in times like these.
When current leaders like Fargo Mayor TIm Mahoney, Moorhead Mayor Johnathan Judd, West Fargo Mayor Bernie Dardis, Cass County Commission Chairman Chad Peterson and local health care experts held a televised briefing Wednesday morning on the coronavirus and they said, uniformly, to not be panicked but to take the steps necessary to protect yourself and your family from contracting the virus, it should have calmed fears some people surely had in these stressful times.
They did not dismiss it as a hoax or conspiracy. They did not say we need to tunnel to the center of the Earth to save ourselves.
They said we need to take the virus seriously and do what the experts tell us to do.
"Prepared, not panicked," was the message they repeated.
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It almost seemed like a flood fight briefing. That's a good thing. It's familiar.
Yeah, we have a struggle ahead. But we got this.
We'll get through this crisis together, Fargo-Moorhead, like we always do.
The past few days have been weird, surreal, unprecedented, spooky, unsettling. Whatever adjective you want to come up with. If you've never sat in a Moorhead bar at 4:45 p.m. and heard the bartender yell out for last call for the next 10 days because the state's governor ordered all bars and restaurants shut down, as I did this week, you maybe don't know how bizarre this whole situation feels.
Schools, businesses and sports have ground to a halt. In other words, real life.
But when you have leaders who are realistic while being organized, prepared, calm and empathetic, it matters.
That's the beauty of good local government. While folks can rightly rail at the federal government for being detached and unresponsive, and question whether the state government is making the right decisions, the locals are here and know what their constituents expect from them.
I know the politics of the mayors and commissioners who spoke Wednesday. They surely have personal feelings about the pandemic, the media reporting and the federal and state government response to coronavirus thus far. But there was no mention of those things in their public statements.
"Prepared, not panicked," only.
This isn't going to be easy for our communities, with so many things mirroring what's happening nationally. People will get sick. Some may die. The economy is going to take a hit, and there will be many in Fargo-Moorhead who feel pain.
If you've seen the desolate restaurants and the closed bars, you know the service industry is going to get crushed. There will be job losses. There will be businesses that don't survive.
That can't be minimized. What's happening is a once-in-a lifetime occurrence that we'll never forget. One of those "remember when?" things. When will it end and how will things look afterward? Those are great mysteries. And that's what's scary right now.
We've been through rough times before and we didn't panic. There's no reason to start now.
We'll get through this.