By Jeri Matheney
Matheney is the communications director for Appalachian Power, which serves 1 million customers in Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. She is based in Charleston, West Virginia.
Wednesday, July 10, is National Lineworker Appreciation Day. At Appalachian Power, it naturally is a day in which we celebrate our line mechanics and other front line employees and the work they do.
As the company spokesperson, I’m on the edges of that world, but not truly a part of it. I’m the person customers love to hate, because I might bring bad news about power outages or rising power bills.
Our line crews, on the other hand, are beloved. They are heroes in their communities — and rightly so. They work long hours to make sure our customers have that essential to modern lives — electricity. The work is hot in the summer, cold in the winter, and inherently dangerous.
When I am with them, I know I am seeing the best of our company. Riding with a crew, I learn about their lives which are as complicated and messy as the rest of ours. Despite the long hours and demanding physical work they do, they also take in relatives’ children, deal with a spouse’s cancer, care for parents with dementia.
On top of that, they are active in their communities. Our employees are busy leading scout troops, reading to classrooms of elementary school children, making repairs to homes as part of United Way Day of Caring, and so much more.
As if that’s not enough, our employees are heroes in the most traditional sense, rescuing or helping those in need. Just in the last year, several stories of Appalachian Power employee heroes come to mind:
n When headed home after a middle-of-the-night trouble call, Anthony Kennedy helped a woman with Alzheimer’s who was sitting in the middle of the road clutching a hymnal at 2:30 a.m. He kept her from being hit by any passing vehicles and helped her family get her safely home.
n Herb Coles was drawn from his home by the screams of his neighbor’s daughter. His neighbor was being attacked by a pit bull; Herb wrestled with the dog long enough for the woman to escape into her home. She was hospitalized with severe injuries but survived. Herb received injuries to his hands, forearms, shoulders and buttocks, and required 11 shots.
n When Fred Bryant came upon the car accident, he stopped to check on the driver. But very quickly, flames started underneath the wrecked car. Fred and other good Samaritans quickly cut the seat belt and pulled the driver — who was in shock — out the car window to safety. Moments later, the car exploded.
Time and again, our line workers and all our front line employees are heroes to our customers, their families and their communities. They are my heroes, too, and I’m proud to say I know them.