By Carol Stiffler

In October 2013, an avalanche rumbled down onto the base camp at Mt. Everest, where travelers and climbers were camping. My aunt, Elena, was the only American there. Four people died, and 154 others, including Elena, were stranded at base camp.

It was the aftermath that threatened her life. The avalanche closed routes of escape. No one off the mountain knew about the avalanche, and more death was assured. The survivors were in desperate need of rescue.

There was no internet or cell service at basecamp, but one person who worked with Greenpeace had an iPad with satellite communication that could connect out. The iPad had Skype, and the Skype account had a prepaid balance that was only enough to make a single two-minute phone call.

The group considered each other. Who do you call when you only have one shot to ask for help – or die?

An American.

They elected Elena to make the call for help. Americans make things happen. They have access to their leaders, can make large-scale requests, and know how to win. Without knowing her political affiliation, the stranded visitors gambled their lives on Elena’s citizenship.

Elena thought about who she knew. It was the middle of the night in the States, and she needed to find someone who would answer an unknown Skype call in the dead of night.

She called. He answered. It worked.

Her friend got on the phone to an American embassy, described the situation, and a rescue effort launched. The survivors at basecamp are still survivors today.

Though that was seven years ago, it could have been yesterday, because that’s the America we still are. Tenacious, caring, able. Strong. Needed. Diverse.

As we weather a pandemic and a very divisive political season, take note that we are still Americans, and we are so together. Our neighbors with the Biden signs, or our neighbors with the Trump flags – they are not un-American, and they aren’t our enemies.

Likewise, the duo who wins this next election will be a pair of Americans, intent on serving America. That includes me and you, whether our votes powered them or not.

Words from national news networks, or candidates themselves, can fire us up into a fury against each other. The news agencies don’t mind making a ruckus because loud noise helps them attract attention and make money.

We are better than money. We are a community. And not agreeing with each other – gently – is okay.

Our country has never been single-minded, and that is one of our strengths. The United States was built on a system of checks and balances, and had multiple political parties and mindsets almost from the start. I bet that was always aggravating.

Remember that we have both red and blue in our American flag. We are both red and blue on a county-by-county, and house-by-house, basis here in the Upper Peninsula.

We are stronger that way. If we were only red, or only blue, we would fall into the trap of being single-minded. We would overlook important things that need our help or protection.

The winning and losing candidates in this 2020 presidential election should now be expected to put an end to their fight and help our nation heal. If for some reason they don’t, we must. We share this community and this country as Americans. Right and left, red and blue, Americans all.

Defend this country, where we have so much, and as you do, don’t divide it. Together we have done great things.

The whole world has seen it and marveled.