A couple of weeks ago in this space, we anguished at length concerning the nonstop privations most of us were experiencing on account of the weather. From that point on, things got worse, not better — with several tornado warnings, countless new monsoons, and, finally, as most of the known world (that portion of it, anyhow, that watches cable news) is aware, we were confronted with the specter of a 100-year flood. (Or should that be a "500-year flood?")
Now, we do not mean to ignore or belittle the very real damage that our swollen rivers, streams, and tributaries have inflicted on many, many people in our midst. We can, however, note with accuracy that our various emergency management agencies, helped abundantly by every species of volunteer, performed heroically in limiting that damage. Moreover, as we write, the water levels seem to have crested, at least on the Mississippi itself.
And the fact is — again, meaning no disrespect to the true victims among us, who deserve not to be forgotten or neglected once the emergency has passed — that the Big Event, augmented by the unexpected playoff surge of the Grizzlies, became something of a party for the media — nationally, as well as locally. The daily traffic of sightseers to our riverfront was brisk and consisted not only of local rubberneckers who rarely head that way but curiosity-seekers from out of town. Some businesses necessarily suffered because of the flood threat, but others, we would hazard to guess, may actually have seen a rise in their receipts. And most of the normal commerce of Memphis and Shelby County went on as usual, unimpeded.
In the back of our minds, moreover, we were able to take satisfaction from the heroic exploits of the aforementioned Grizzlies, who — win or lose in the still ongoing NBA playoffs — have already earned a respectable niche for themselves, and for their city, in the consciousness of the outer world.
And, just as we were being told that the Mississippi River level had reached its peak at 48 feet and had begun to recede, we learned of yet another serendipity — the decision by President Barack Obama to come to Memphis as the commencement speaker at Booker T. Washington High School. Actually, "serendipity" may not be the right word, since the faculty and students of BTW earned the right to be considered for this honor in a nationwide Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge in which, to quote the contest rules, competing institutions were invited "to demonstrate how their school best prepares them for college and a career, helping America win the future by out-educating our competitors and achieving President Obama's goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020."
BTW did this mainly via a sterling video setting forth the school's inspiring academic successes in recent years and relating them not only to the yardstick rules of the contest but to eternal human aspirations. We congratulate BTW and the justly proud community which it serves.
And did we mention that we don't have Osama bin Laden to kick around any more?