Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Nor'easter 2011 ~ Part Two: Nine Days

You can read Part One of this blog entry here: Nor'easter 2011 ~ Part One: Survival



We had hope after seeing our precious home all in one piece, but the aftermath from the storm was just beginning. It became quickly apparent to us that it would not be feasible on that day to live in our house. Access to the house was difficult at best and since we had lost power, we had no heat or water. Although we had a fireplace, I knew staying there would be extremely difficult for me since the cold (45-50 degrees) temperature of the house would affect not only my joints, but the Raynaud's symptoms I was experiencing as well. There was also concern over the fireplace affecting my asthma. After weighing our options, Chuck and I decided to go to my brother's condo which was a few towns over. His two bedroom home was going to be cramped with both of us, my brother, and my parents (who were also displaced) being there, but at this point, it was our best option. Luckily, our dog sitter was able to obtain a generator for her home and she agreed to keep our dog Molly with her for as long as we needed.


Trying to get down this road the morning after the storm.

Although Chuck was optimistic about how long our power would be out, I was not. Just from looking at the damage to the trees, wires, and telephone poles, I knew it would be several days before services would be restored.


Several days?


It was nine.
Nine days.


Nine days of uncertainty. Nine days of living out of a duffel bag. Nine days of traveling back and forth from wherever I was staying back to Belchertown. Nine days of trying to manage my autoimmune illness without the tools I needed. Nine days of conflict, worry, and stress.




The days immediately after the storm were like nothing I had ever experienced. Although we were able to hear from all of our family members, the same could not be said for our friends, especially the friends who were at the church with us that Saturday night for the play. Cell service (except for occasional texting) was down for about 24-48 hours and landline as well as internet communication was non-existent for many people. As we drove through Belchertown and other surrounding communities those first two days after the storm, nothing appeared to exist as it previously had. Supermarkets were partially lit on generator and open for nonperishable food only. Cashiers wore winter coats over their clothes. Access to gas was a serious problem and wait times at the gas pump could be as long as an hour. Schools were closed indefinitely. Shelters were set up in many communities for people who did not have an alternative place to live. Many people could not go to work due to massive power outages throughout New England. Life as we knew it had changed.


The red circled area is the massive power outage on the east coast

When an event of this magnitude occurs, oftentimes people feel isolated and disconnected. Although I was staying with various family members throughout the week,  I still felt very disconnected from my community and the world in general. It was posted on Facebook a few days after the storm that the parish hall at my church would be open as a shelter during the day. I clearly remember the first day I went to spend some time in the warm parish hall. I had been at my house for about an hour getting some clean clothes and necessities as well as checking on the house. Then I went to the church. I was so exhausted, in pain, and frustrated with still not having power. I walked up the steps into the parish hall and there was my minister, with a smile and a hug. All of a sudden, I felt reconnected. I felt like I was home again.





There were a lot of other emotions I felt that week that I was not used to experiencing or at least not experiencing so intensely. Anger...fear...helplessness. As the days continued on, the biggest issue contributing to all these emotions was the inability to get our power restored. The storm was on a Saturday. Fallen trees were not removed from our road until Wednesday and we did not see a single utility worker until Friday. Every time I would drive down the road, I would hold my breath in the hopes of seeing a truck from National Grid (the power company for my town) working on the lines but for five days, there was nobody. There are many theories as to why this situation happened the way it did. Some people say the storm was so devastating and covered such a large area, that it was impossible to get power restored quickly. Other people were saying that National Grid was unprepared for managing a disaster. Now looking back, I personally feel that it was a combination of those two factors. The reality was that at the end of the day, it didn't matter the reasons. I was still homeless.


A tree precariously suspended over power lines.
 I knew everyone I cared about was safe. I knew my home was intact. But as the days went by, I became more and more desperate to return to my routine. I missed my dog. I missed sleeping in the same bed as my boyfriend, who had decided to start sleeping back at the house in order to keep an eye on our house. Things were not the way they were supposed to be. I was baffled with myself because I was so fortunate in that we were not injured, our home was not destroyed, and I had a warm place to stay at night. What right did I have to feel so upset?



What I came to realize over the course of those nine days is that I had every right to be upset with the situation. My safety had been threatened. My home had been threatened. My overall wellbeing had been threatened. I was a victim of a natural disaster.


Victim.


This is not a word I like to associate with myself but that did not make it any less accurate. We were all victims on that fateful day in October when Mother Nature decided to take her fury to New England. But the residents of Belchertown, Massachusetts, and all the other areas hit by this devastating storm became more than victims. We became survivors, in every sense of the word. We stood by each other as best as we knew how with what we had. We gave refuge to each other. Sometimes that came in the form of a warm place to sleep at night. Sometimes it can in the form of a hot meal after eating packaged food for days. Sometimes it came in the form of a hug or a safe place to cry. I know in the town of Belchertown, I felt, as I have in the past, a feeling of community.


Our road (Route 9) two days after the storm

It has now been twenty hours since the power to our house has been restored. Twenty hours since I returned home and got my life back. But not exactly back to the life I knew. It's a little different now. The shower feels hotter. The bed feels more comforting. The trees in our yard give me pause now.



I am a little more vulnerable than I used to be.


More humble.
More appreciative.


All because of nine days.

4 comments:

  1. I was there with my swiss cheese! Glad we could all be together.
    aloha,
    todd

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  2. I have a new fondness for Swiss cheese that I never had before!

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  3. Christine! I'm so sorry you went through all that. And, that photo of the US with all the dark area....amazing. Unbelievable!

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  4. Thanks Becky! I can say that today, things feel fully back to normal. We got a lot of the yard cleaned up over the weekend and the storm is not the only topic of conversation wherever I go. I am loving my warm house, electricity, and running water as well!

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