Unsung Heroes

Mike Knotts
CEO, Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association

If you ask elementary school-aged children to write about their heroes, you might get quite an amusing grouping of subjects — cartoon superheroes, fictional characters, sports stars and other larger-than-life characters. A heartwarming hand-drawn picture of a student’s mom or dad might even make its way onto the page.

Give that same assignment to a young adult, and the subjects will likely become much more real-life. Soldiers. Firefighters. Police. Doctors and nurses. People dedicated to serving others and willing to accept some degree of risk.

This dedication can cost them. Sacrifices like time away from loved ones, physical discomfort, injuries and sometimes even risk of death are everyday life for these special people. And while these heroes rarely ever seek recognition, we hold parades and ceremonies for them on special days.

We do these things because the gratitude is earned. As I have grown older, though, I have recognized that there are heroes among us who don’t receive that kind of appreciation. And most who fit this category don’t seek appreciation for their heroics. And to me, that makes the recognition all the more deserved.

I am thinking of people like Rick Courtner and Cody Bryant. These amazing employees of Mountain Electric Cooperative, along with several of their colleagues, had no idea that their normal day at work in February 2020 would find them at the dramatic scene of a motorist trapped in ferocious floodwaters. Local EMS had no way to make a swift water rescue. All that prevented tragedy that day were the selfless actions of people who cared. But as the news report documenting the event concluded, these heroes “see their actions as so unremarkable, they don’t remember what happened afterward … they just packed up the truck.”

Read the story here. “Unremarkable” is the last thing I believe you will say after you see the video. “Heroic” is the word that comes to mind.

But this was nothing unusual for them. Rick and Cody and thousands of their colleagues across our state are already unsung heroes. They are electric lineworkers. An average day for a lineworker — one of the world’s most dangerous jobs — can include all of the common threads that make us show so much respect for a soldier or a firefighter or other easily recognizable hero. Keeping electricity flowing is done through hard work, long hours and dangerous conditions. And almost everything we do in modern society depends upon their efforts.

I am happy to report that the Tennessee General Assembly has recognized the important roles lineworkers play in daily life. The second Monday in April of each year — April 10 this year — is now designated as Tennessee Lineworker Appreciation Day to honor and recognize lineworkers for their estimable work in providing for the safety and well-being of this state’s citizens. I am grateful to Sen. Paul Bailey of Sparta and Rep. Clark Boyd of Lebanon for sponsoring the legislation and to each and every member of the General Assembly, which unanimously passed it.

While most of the lineworkers I know don’t seek recognition, I hope you will join me in providing it to them anyway. They deserve it.

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