The Grid

Published December 7, 2022

By Lib Campbell

I am a lover of light. I love lights strung in the back yard. I love the candle lights that keep a low glow in our house at night. When a storm came through Raleigh last summer and the lights went out, I sat in our den lit now by candlelight. Our den is furnished with antiques, mostly 18th century furniture or reproductions. As I sat there, I thought right out loud. I do not want to live in the 18th Century.

Thank you, Benjamin Franklin. Thank you, Thomas Edison. Your imagination, your discovery, your work led to our 21st century light. In shows, strobes, twinkles, and everywhere, there is light!

In this season of Advent, I wait for the Light of the World to be born among us. At the same time, I am pure mad at what happened in Moore County, at two Duke Energy Substations. Saboteurs killed the grid for about 40,000 people, many of whom sat in darkness for days. No hurricane or natural disaster. Malicious intent and evil were the storm gripping the grid in that winter weekend.

The first electric grid is credited to Thomas Edison. The country’s first power plant, called the Pearl Street Station, distributed electricity to 59 homes in Manhattan. From that meager start, the grid has grown to be the “largest machine in the world.” With hundreds of millions of miles of power lines and thousands of power stations and substations, the grid lights up America from coast to coast. The power companies that run the grid are regulated by utility commissions. The companies make the profit; we customers have the benefit of light, heat, refrigeration, and so forth.

Taking the grid for-granted lulls me into a false notion that electricity is a given. I flip a switch and voila! Yet there have been days, even weeks, when the electricity is off after a big snowstorm or a hurricane, that I realize my dependency on the grid. Most every creature comfort I can think of from the coffee pot to the television to a hot shower relies on a steady and dependable supply of electricity.

Interruption to the grid has long been something I have thought about. In these times there are so many around who want to cause harm. Apparently, that’s what happened in Moore County. CNN speculates that the shooting up of equipment at the substations near Southern Pines might have been in protest of a drag show that started about the same time as the vandalism. Hard to believe that people would be so hard-hearted they would kill the grid right in the middle of the holiday season. Plus, it’s cold! So mean. This seems more like terrorism than garden variety vandalism to me.

The F.B.I. is involved in this suspicious attack in Moore County. Mostly because this has happened before. First in Southern California in 2013, more recently in Columbus, Ohio. Three men there pled guilty to executing a terrorist White Supremacist Plot. Taking down the grid destabilizes a community, causes economic distress, closes schools, and sows division. The ideology of White Male Supremacy is deep in too many souls. For all the years, White Male hegemony was the way things were and grievance was aimed at minority populations. So angry and fearful are these homegrown terrorists that they are prepared to take out whole communities, inflicting as much pain as possible. A new vigilance is called for.

The people of Ukraine are spending their winter in the cold and dark, thanks to the constant bombing from Russia. They are scrambling to restore electricity to buildings that are nearly destroyed. Putin has a mean heart to wreak such terror on a people who just want to breathe free. At Carnegie Hall recently a children’s choir from Ukraine sang “Carol of the Bells,” a song written by a Ukrainian, giving witness to hope that goes beyond what is mean and ugly in the world. Their voices give witness to the power of light.

So far, nobody has stepped up to claim their actions in taking down the grid in Moore County. But I think this is a cautionary tale for all of us. Hackers and cyber stalkers, to yahoos with guns, are a threat to the grid and to our way of life. This story is unfolding even amid the pain and suffering of the people of the county. Cleaning up the mess is a tall job. Perhaps our vulnerabilities are catching up with us.

Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader, columnist and host of the blogsite She can be contacted at