I am thinking about the folk down on the gulf who were in the path of the hurricane. It is almost impossible to imagine the devastation that this one storm has wrought, even though all the major news media have given it top play these past 24 hours. Damage, death, injury and the terror that go along with trying to live through the horror of a hurricane passing over your head don't translate well to television, even if you have High Def decoders for the set in your family room. The scope is three-dimensional.
And there is always the day after, but I will get to that in a bit.
First, I am going to talk about two hurricanes I experienced. One I lived through, and the other I heard about. Both hit Newport, RI. One, when I was there. The other a few years before I arrived.
The one that hit the island before I arrived, and I can't even remember its name right now, went straight up Narragansett Bay. It slammed the city of Newport, and the evidence of its passing was visible years after in the front yard of the church I served while I was there. Trinity Church is one of those old, historic parishes that predate the birth of the US by nearly a hundred years. It is "old colonial" in the stuffiest sense of the word, and yet it bears the scars of a long, long life by the sea. The whole church lists slightly away from the prevailing winds off the bay. And, in the front yard, there is an old fruit tree that mirrors that angle. When the hurricane went up the Bay a couple of decades ago, the eye went over Newport. That tree, witnessed by the person who told me this story, was uprooted and blown over by the wind in one moment...And then when the eye had passed and the winds reversed...It was uprighted. The only evidence of the violence it suffered was a small rise on the windward side of the trunk where the root ball did not quite make it back into the hole it had left from being blown over; and the list I noted earlier. Sometimes storms leave big scars, sometimes little ones.
The other image I will always walk with in remembering hurricanes was the one I lived through. A minor storm, a weak hurricane, kissed the coast of New England when I was living there. The night of the storm, I had friends visiting from New York and we had a wonderful party going until the storm drove people home. Lying in bed that night, I could feel the building moving and shifting around me. It was if the whole structure (a 19th century brick rectory to an RC church across the street) was breathing in and out, slowly and in time with the storms actions.
I was worried, scared and exhilarated, all at once.
And the next morning!
SO clear and clean, the air had a quality that you can only imagine if you haven't been through a storm like that before in your life. Such peace and calm, even in the midst of the devastation, it was an awesome thing to see the sky so blue, to breathe that crystal air. It was almost worth going through that storm to see that sun rise the next day.
And, the only damage to my home or property was a scratch/dent on the roof of my car. Left from a falling branch, three small nicks in the paint and a slight depression are the only tactile trace of that incredible experience.
I can only hop and pray for those who got the worst of Katrina that they get a chance to feel a little bit of that sense of joy I felt...Just for living through that storm.