Michele Bender photo

Michele Mikesic Bender

So, how did you spend last Sunday evening? I managed to alarm 247 people on Facebook (plus countless first-responders, police, Penelec employees). I never intended to cause such a fuss.

I am so stirred by the outpouring of concern, and the efforts and energy that folks expended. Precious souls mobilized and made sure I was OK.

It wasn’t a life-threatening situation, but it emphatically demonstrated that Johnstowners look out for others.

Let me tell the tale.

I “turkey-dozed” off in my electric lift chair about 7 p.m. Woke up at 9.

No beam of light peeped under the door from the hallway. No nightlights twinkled in the kitchen or bedroom. My cell said “No Service.”

Woodmont has long been known as the black hole of telephone communication.

On a whim, I pressed the chair remote. Lift chairs have battery back-ups, but you must update the batteries. The Ever-Ready batteries in my controller were likely there since the Bush administration.

Years ago, life taught me another lesson: never attempt to squiggle out of the chair. By the time your keister reaches the footrest, the balance is compromised and the chair dumps and squishes you.

I posted on Siren Finder: “It’s 9:08. Power failure in Woodmont. Laurelwood Apts. Anyone else effected? Misery loves company. Laptop battery operating on 4 hr charge. Anyone else out there?”

Less than 5 minutes passed, and my router light went out.

Cable powers the router, and connects me to the internet.

The ice finally reached it, too.

I had no idea that Facebook friends all over town rallied to help.

Those with my phone number tried to call me, and call others who live in my building. No connection.

Women who had friends working next door at LaurelWood Care Center contacted their pals and asked if someone could scoot over and check on me. The Care Center is strictly separate from our place.

They suggested calling police non-emergency.

Police and Penelec employees isolated the source of a “brownout,” a mystifying light show that occurs when a transformer acts out.

One streetlight gleamed, but the electric doors of our security building wouldn’t budge.

Upstairs neighbor Sandy, while checking on her floormates, realized that our location in Woodmont was surrounded by responders.

She trekked down the three flights of stairs (no elevator, of course) and opened a window in our community room to communicate with the personnel.

“How is Michele Bender?” she was asked.

“I’ll go check on her,” Sandy replied. She arrived at my door in seconds.

“Are you OK?” she asked.

“Stranded, but OK. What’s up?”

“A transformer went out. It’s a major repair job. The Penelec man went back to their shop for more equipment and helpers. Apparently, your Facebook friends called the police. Do you need anything?”

“There’s a bag of ice in the freezer, and maybe get me some diet sodas. Could you light the battery lantern in the kitchen, and the one on my worktable?”

She handed me my supplies.

“Oh, and the heavy afghan from the loveseat.”

“I’ll let them know you’re OK,” she smiled.

“You checked on the others, right?” I asked.

“Just a few more to go,” she replied. “I’ll have answers for them now.”

Sandy is a treasure. And you Facebook guys and gals are awesome, too.

Power returned at 2 a.m.

I didn’t know the extent of my troubles when I posted that message, but I was overwhelmed Monday morning.

I wrote down all the names of those who commented. All morning I received new posts from folks who just heard about it and wished me well. Former students, parents of former students, and friends whom I know only because we exchange info or news or jokes checked in.

I try to limit my columns to 650 words tops. I’m going for 700. Ready? 2 Rebeccas, 3 Kims, 3 Marges, Pat, Laurie, Donnie, Rick, 2 Michelles, 2 Tinas, Rozy, Susan, Dotty, Sharla, Jessica, Tabitha, Paul, Kaitlyn, Christan.

Your comments touched my heart. Thank you.

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at MsGeezerette@aol.com.

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