Depending on what part of a hurricane you experience, riding it out can be easier than recovering from it. Today is a week from the morning
Everybody everywhere in the city swung into action. People poured outdoors to clean the yards, streets and storm drains. On many blocks, no one had ever seen that many of their neighbors all at one time, including men and women, elderly people, and kids pulling rakes taller than they wore.
Across the city, the hurricane responders ranged from residents to law enforcement and tens of thousands of power company people from here and elsewhere: visualize whole convoys of power trucks. Points of Distribution for emergency supplies opened up in civic buildings, parks and church parking lots. The PODs were manned by assorted civil servants, church people and volunteers. Some of the PODS were organized to a T: line of cars snakes through the parking lot or city park; drivers requested to pop their trunks at point A; a a case of Meals Ready to Eat slung into the trunk at Point B, case of bottled water loaded in at Point C, the load topped off with bags of ice at point D; trunk is snapped shut and away goes the grateful recipient.
All in all, the big picture of hurricane response was rather dramatic. Recovery, though, feels more like a string of small beads. The power company gets lights on block by block, hospital by hospital. Schools and places of business locate one employee after another. Restaurants open back up one by one and cautiously extend their hours and their menus just a bit more each day.
I have my own personal recovery string of beads.
- The morning after the storm, moving my container roses and other plants back out onto the front porch.
- Confirming that the commode can be flushed by refilling the tank (with a gallon of blue plant food water; the commode needed flushing more than the plants needed food.)
- Getting water back. It wasn't safe to drink, but it meant the commode worked again.
- So did the shower.
- Going to my library day job and having actual hot coffee.
- Returning home to see that the trash truck had miraculously come and emptied the apartment complex dumpster.
- Cleaning out the contents of the fridge into that inviting dumpster.
- Finding that the blackout at my apartment complex had turned into a brownout. The lights came on with a weird early-Halloween glow of little real use. But one eye of the stove got warm enough to actually heat water or soup.
- The street lights coming on the fence row behind the apartments. If those lights are back on, could we be far behind?
- The cleaned out, aired-out refrigerator purring to life. Lights! Computer! Action!
I think most other people in
There are metaphorical storms in life that work the same way hurricanes do. A bad enough storm can devastate beyond hope of recovery. Other storm experiences are bad, but not devastating. They first galvanize a response and then segue into slow, unspectacular recovery. For example: In late 2006 my mother developed Alzheimer's. I didn't know what the hell to do, but being an only child means you're inevitably where the buck stops. I spent the better part of a year and a half in response mode, with some dramatic consequences. My mother is now in Assisted Living, her house was emptied out and sold, and her finances have been sorted out and arranged to last as long as she does. Cherished things from her house are now in my house. Her car has become my car. She still lives in
Disaster response brings out elemental truths. One: you are not as alone as you feel. Family, friends, caregivers, and elder care professionals have helped me to an extent I would not have believed. Two: if you go into high gear with enough practical help and encouragement, things can change for the better much faster that you would have believed possible.
Maybe there's a third elemental truth too: recovery happens. Bit by bit, bead by bead. After the hurricane, I heard from my cousin in