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March,1996

Excuse Me, Mr. Clinton
by Cliff Walker

His remark distracted me like a gaudy piece of jewelry piercing the lower lip of an otherwise attractive individual. I cannot remember anything else he said. Still, the President provoked me to rethink what happened and who really deserves credit.

By Thursday, the Willamette River looked as if it would go over the wall. Crews from Ross Island Sand and Gravel delivered truckloads of sandbags, as volunteers from out of nowhere scrambled to protect property as far up as S.W. Sixth. Mayor Katz kept a lid on the hysteria. I don't think we could have expected anyone to predict what would happen.

I heard a report about the engineers letting water out of dams on the Columbia, and I wondered if they might know more than they were letting on. That the river peaked six inches below the Portland seawall was too close to be a coincidence -- thanks to the heroic efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Then came President Clinton and his picturesque speech near the Salmon Street fountain. My jaw dropped as Mr. Clinton said, "All of America has been praying for you." Excuse me?

All the prayer in America did not quiet the storms. And no prayer was needed to mobilize hoards of citizens volunteering to help in Oregon City, Tualitin, and elsewhere. No supernatural forces established the network of radio amateurs who eventually informed us about the newly formed "island" of Vernonia.

No. No one worth praying to caused or averted the unique conditions which overturned the Pacific Northwest, and people, alone, are dealing with it. The people who remained off their knees and stood ready were the true heroes last month.

Graphic Rule
Copyright ©1996 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon