On the evening of December 31st, 2006, an intense ice storm hit Alton, Illinois.
Many of the marinas were struck with severe ice.
The support beams holding the roofs above the stored motorboats collapsed at many of these marinas.
Three of the marinas were insured by an insurance company that we represented.
So my boss and I went out on January 3rd to take a look around.
The responses of the three marina owners was instructive and I think about this event often.
And if you find this story has remnants of Goldilocks and the 3 bears, I think so too.
At the first marina, a husband and wife had purchased the marina in late 2006. In fact, the sale had just closed on December 20. Although the man and woman were walking around their office and talking to us, they had basically shriveled up into a ball and were rather without function. They begged us to get the insurance company’s repair experts out to their marina to “take care of things.”
They asked us if we were the cavalry. My boss said, “no, we are the lawyers.”
At the second marina, the owner was a bit more functional. He had been through this type of ordeal on one prior occasion and had a few of his employees taking pictures and doing basic repair work. Needless to say, working on frozen, collapsed marinas is dangerous work. But he was reflective and he just sort of dug in to get started on cleaning things up.
He asked us what to do. My boss said, “take lots of pictures, be super careful and do what you can. The repair crews will be stretched thin with all of the other collapses, so do what you can to protect any boats that you can.”
When we arrived at the third marina, I was pretty tired. This was late in the day. But what I saw when I got there has stuck with me for the past ten years.
At the third marina, the owner was out in the yard directing traffic. He had called in every employee to work on the morning of January 1st. He hired his own repair crews and the team had already made significant process in cleaning up the debris. Crews shifted boats around and a bunch of the wreckage had been pulled out of the marina and stacked in the center of the yard. All repair work had been videotaped and photographed.
The owner told us his philosophy. He said, “I know the insurance company will pay me back for these repairs. But I owe it to my boat owners to do everything I can to protect them. We called the best repair team we could while the ice was still falling. My team has been here for 18 hours a day for the past three days. I will pay them overtime, but it is worth it.”
Interestingly, he also invoked the cavalry. He said, “I know there ain’t no cavalry coming to save us. So we became our own cavalry.”
When disaster or tragedy strike, we can throw up our hands and wait to be saved. Or, we can choose to swing into action and do what we can to help. So interesting to see how different people react differently to the exact same situation.