We're launching a package called "My Omaha" tomorrow in the paper.
It was Dane's idea -- ask regular people what Omaha means to them, how they would define the city. The premise was that while Omaha is now lumped with Columbine, Virginia Tech and other places where random, senseless shooting sprees have claimed lives, the shooting at Westroads a week and a half ago does not define us. So let's see how the people who live here define it.
Great idea. I was interested in helping and so volunteered to either help coordinate the effort or do interviews. I ended up going to an outdoor shopping center to interview strangers. I never really love the cold "Hi, my name is Veronica, I write for the World-Herald, can I ask you a few questions?" approach, but the interviews went OK. We'd been told to make the tales as personal as possible, so I prodded people to dig deeper and offer anecdotes.
I thought I did pretty well.
At least one of my editors thought differently. She wanted an even deeper level of reflection, something even she acknowledged was difficult to get in a man on the street interview. So I ended up calling a few of the folks back.
I wasn't especially happy about this. But the product did end up better as a result.
I read through some of the stories other reporters got on Friday. Many Omahans said they love the city because of how friendly and willing to help people are.
We saw it firsthand tonight.
For my mom's birthday, we ate at Old Chicago. Afterward, as we were leaving, my mom's car got stuck in the snow. Her rear-wheel drive couldn't get her up a small incline in the parking lot. Dane tried to push, then I joined in the effort. We weren't doing much good. But not a minute had passed when three guys got out of their car and came over to help. Five seconds later, another guy came. I gladly got out of their way. Within a minute, my mom and sister were unstuck.
All thanks really to the strangers who stopped what they were doing, interrupted their immediate plans to lend a hand.
It was something to see.
My 2-year-old watched from our car. Dane and I got back in, and I asked Rye if he'd seen what happened. "Yeah," he said. "Grandma and Ashley were stuck. Those guys helped her."
Yes, I said. That was nice.
"Yeah," Rye said. "Daddy and Mommy helped, too. Now, she's not stuck anymore."
It was a small thing those guys did, but it left a big impression.