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The privilege of power

Kassie Breindenbach, sophomore at Napoleion High School
Kassie Breidenbach

No power. No electricity. No heat. No lights. No Wi-Fi. This may sound like the pioneer days, but I am describing the experience many rural towns in North Dakota faced over Christmas break. In my hometown of Napoleon, we were without power and comforts for 66 long hours.

My mom woke me the day after Christmas screaming because the power was out. I had to help my younger siblings clean out the fridge and store our perishable food in coolers we placed outside, so the food wouldn’t spoil. There aren’t many benefits of living in North Dakota during the winter, but using the outdoors as a refrigerator is one.

Unless you had a generator or a propane-powered fireplace, you didn’t have heat in your house — and it got chilly. Many people slept in their winter boots and coats to keep from freezing. Our town rallied together to make sure others were okay. Neighbors reached out to neighbors to make sure everyone was warm and fed. People with heat invited others to come share the warmth. This camaraderie is a special feature of small towns; when in a crisis, we come together and care for one another.

The hardest obstacle I had to deal with was no Wi-Fi. I had to find enjoyment in activities I don’t often make time for such as reading until 1 a.m. by the light of a flashlight, going sledding behind my four-wheeler with my little sister, and playing cards games by candlelight. On top of having no Wi-Fi, some people didn’t have data because the tower went down. With no Wi-Fi and no data, it was impossible to stay in constant contact with friends and keep my Snapchat streaks alive. To keep them, I had to steal Wi-Fi from houses with generators.

I have never appreciated power so much in my life as I do now. Before I took it for granted, but now I know what it is like to not have the privilege of power. Being without power was a blessing in disguise. While the power was out, I got to be with the people I cared about without the distractions of phones or other electronics. Being without power was a learning experience for myself and many others in North Dakota.


Kassie Breidenbach, 16, is a sophomore at Napoleon Public School, where she is involved in volleyball, FCCLA, DECA, student council and class president. She enjoys working out, being with friends and family, and baking. She loves being at the lake, playing competitive card games and eating juicy cheeseburgers. Kassie is the daughter of Nick and Kelly Breidenbach. (photo by Katie Breidenbach)