The first time I got caught in the throws of a natural disaster was when I was eight years old. It was the end of May and to make matters worse, my mother was in the hospital recovering from an etopic pregnancy. My father was with her at the hospital so my brother and I were in babysitting care of neighbors. Tom and I were placidly watching I Love Lucy when the weather man kept interupting the program about these tornado warnings. I kept pointed out the announcements to Beverly but she told me not to worry.
Hail balls started coming down the size of eggs. I looked out the window and saw my friend Rita running out to grab one like it was a souvenir. Than the power went out. We ran down the stairs when a window blew out and the glass came flying at us. I screamed and thought, here I am just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz going through a tornado. It turns out three tornados blasted through Fridley, Minnesota that night. My brother and I relied totally on the kindness of neighbors to get us through the night.
The next morning the neighborhood was in total devastation. The cross from the church across the street sat mangled and bent in our front yard. The grocery store roof totally caved in. Some homes were flattened.
Now some forty years later, my brother and I shared a natural disaster together again. Since my brother lives in a beach community, Rowayton, CT, he got a knock on the door at 1pm on Saturday and was ordered to evacuate. I picked him up at 3pm and decided to make the best of the situation and had my neighbor and her guests over for dinner Saturday night. I did my best to create a festive mood, preparing my signature dishes--ceasar salad, chicken picata, the best baguette bread I know of, blueberry pie--and LOTS of candles.
About 11pm we went to bed and hoped for the best. I tried to sleep, but this howling wind started up. I kept one window in my bedroom cracked, and I remember this strong force of air pushing through my room, making me toss and turn. At about 3:30pm I heard this hard thump, then went back into a restless sleep.
At 7:30am I walked upstairs to make coffee and noticed something different. There was more light in the kitchen window. Then I looked out and realized the big tree in my front yard was gone. I ran outside and saw the tree laying across my driveway with the branches cradling the back of my car.
My neighbor called out from her window upstairs and said: don't worry the fire department has been here, and the condo association would be there shortly so my car wouldn't be trapped in the driveway. Neighhbors walked by and shook there heads. Most everyone said: "It's a miracle that tree missed your car."
A few hours later, I walked through the neighborhood and realized I was not alone. There were at least 6 trees down. Miraculously, they all fell into the street and not one dived into someone's roof. I consider myself lucky. When I drove my brother back to his house, at about 6pm Sunday night, it was clear his evacuation was a good decision. all the roads were flooded and people were walking around in those those rubber "Wellie" boots. My brother had wanted to get rid of his gravel driveway in favor of tar paving, but I believe the gravel driveway prevented the flooding from creeping inside his home. His house surived Irene unscathed.
It just goes to show, none of the flashlights, candles and bottled water could have prevented that tree from falling down in my front yard. You just never know when mother nature decides to knock on your door and blow hard.