Though Winter has yet to officially arrive much of the Northeast was caught in the grips of an unprecedented ice storm late last week, and as these blasts of Mother Nature usually do, the resulting carnage brought our technology driven, 21st century world to a complete standstill. No warning. No escape. Some described what happened up here as “Katrina without the water.”
We certainly had our share of declarations (National Disaster Area and State of Emergency)… our interruptions of basic services like heat, running water and electricity. At one point 92% of our town of nearly 35,000 was shivering in the bitter NH cold, heating systems unable to work without electricity to turn them on.
Shelters were hurriedly opened… cots, food and supplies gathered, while roads were impassible because of ice coated downed limbs, trees and power lines. ATM’s had no power or were inaccessible. Gas stations, if they had gas, had no electricity to pump it. Food stores had to throw away perishables like milk (white gold) and eggs, and quickly ran out of gallon jugs of water and pre cut wood. Any business that managed to be open was trying to operate on backup generators with enough juice for a few lights and a register or two.
It might have been beautiful to look at, but it was hell to live through. Though now, back home and comfortable, I can see those those dark days and nights as an invaluable lesson in perspective.
When we were cold to our bones… our home in darkness and the prospect of a sleepless, icy night before us we were able to go to a place that was warm, comfortable and oh so welcoming. No sterile shelter for us… my parents took in us five, as well as a 70 pound, utterly clueless yellow lab… with grace and kindness… going out of their way to make us comfortable. A valuable lesson in family support for my children.
When we were at our most hopeless and homesick, with the prospect of two weeks (including the holidays) without power, came the terrible, tragic story of a home burned to the ground by an overburdened generator. Though they’d survived, that family had no home to go back to and never would. No matter how long it took (in the end 5 days) we would go home again.
When all we were hearing, repeated with gleeful urgency at the top of every hour was bad news… the unexpected story of a few hardy volunteers riding around our town in a working pickup equipped with their own chain saws, cutting through fallen trees to clear the roads for power crews. On their own time, with their own two hands. Asking nothing, instead just trying to help out. Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough to say to those guys.
When we couldn’t wait for some sign that our cable/internet/phone connection had been restored… the unexpected ring followed by the thickly accented voice of a customer service rep, hardened by hang ups and rudeness, who heard instead a voice who was actually glad she’d called. Someone who happily, patiently listened to her offer and thanked her for the call. In fact, I’m sure I was the most joyful person she talked with all day.
When we’re all back to normal… together, warm and settled in, with all the expected amenities anyone could ask in a home we love, gratitude doesn’t seem to cover the feeling… to name it properly. Much of the rest of the world has so much less than we do here in the good old U.S. of A… and having had a taste of the struggle for warmth and the effort to get basic necessities these last few days, I’ve come to hold my own secure, satisfied life, and its many, many blessings, very dearly indeed.
All in all… a sorely needed lesson in perspective. One that I sincerely hope you learn by reading this rather than living the experiences of the last week for yourselves.