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Keller @ Large: What Did We Learn From Blizzard Of ’78?

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This photo was taken on Boston Street in Lynn after the Blizzard of '78. (Photo courtesy: Charlie Zapolski)

This photo was taken on Boston Street in Lynn after the Blizzard of ’78. (Photo courtesy: Charlie Zapolski)

WBZ-TV's Jon Keller Jon Keller
Jon Keller is WBZ-TV News' Political Analyst, and his "Keller A...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Where were you 35 years ago today when our state was paralyzed by the Blizzard of ‘78?

Listen to Jon’s commentary:


I was doing the news at a pop music radio station in Lawrence, WCCM, and when the storm hit, all of a sudden, the platters that matter didn’t matter anymore. The station abruptly became the focal point of the entire community, especially for those who lost power, stranded there in the dark relying on us to explain to them what on earth was going on.

Photos: Blizzard of 1978

For the first 24 hours or so, it was just me and one of the dj’s fielding phone calls on-air from everyone with information to give and a need that had to be addressed. We put panicky diabetics running low on insulin on the air to talk directly with the Red Cross, and tried to calm frightened elderly people with no one else to turn to.

We were a forum for people to connect with and comfort one another, to ask for help and offer it. And we were witness to the tremendous outpouring of neighborly support for one another that became such a memorable characteristic of that event.

But the Blizzard of ’78 wasn’t all about the milk of human kindness.

On the way into the station the night of the storm, my co-worker and I saved the life of a local mill worker whose bosses had ignored the governor’s order to send employees home before the worst of the storm set in. The guy was freezing to death waiting for a bus that was never coming when we came across him. And the next day we learned that many local business owners had failed to close down when told to do so, jeopardizing many more lives for a few extra dollars.

And speaking of milk, the acute shortage that followed the blizzard showcased human nature at its worst, as people hoarded milk and ignored the ad hoc rationing stores tried to enforce.

Another bad Blizzard of ’78 memory.

So what did we learn from this now-mythic event?

That people can be wonderful, pulling together and caring for the well-being of strangers in a moment of crisis. And, that people can be horrible, greedy and selfish when the moment calls for selflessness.

Yes, the Blizzard of ’78 was unique – but the lessons we learned from it weren’t.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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