I knew long before the nor’easter hit the east coast almost two weeks ago, that we were in for a siege. Maggie, the dog, was hovering in the center of the staircase, where she holes up long before the storms begin because she feels them. We had only heard that we were in for rain, thunder and very high winds.
But we’ve lived in our small village for years, and with the exception of huge blizzards that have taken days to dig out from, we’ve suffered no damage to ourselves or our home.
Even though we are just in the beginning of this century, I think we went through one of those “storms of the century” that people talk about for generations. And yet, it didn’t touch my family one bit.
I wish I could say the same for my next door neighbors. The young couple who live to the left of us, yet are separated from us by a shallow forest, bought their home several years ago because they loved the way the trees encircled the house and secluded them from the world. The boughs of their 100-year-old evergreens and oaks were gentle in the way they shaded their property and the family of four rested on their patio, hidden from the world.
Their property is no longer the same. The 70-mile an hour wind that crossed paths with our house, demolished theirs. Huge trees were ripped clear out of the rain soaked earth from their roots and connected squarely with their roof. Their sprawling lawn became a criss-cross of lumber and scrap that blew at them from everywhere. We watched this happen over two days time, helpless to help them, fearful of stepping outside and getting blown away.
By the third day, we were able to go outside and look around. I’ve seen pictures of war torn countries where buildings were bombed and everything littered the streets. That’s what we thought we saw. If a bomb had dropped on their property, I don’t think it would look much different.
Since I’ve lived in peace for all of my life, the biggest shock came as I gazed at the mess. I felt as though I was in an emergency room among battle-scarred victims. Their home was the victim and their property revealed the scars and detritus.
And the biggest shock of all? I felt sick to my stomach and wretched uncontrollably because I looked at ruin, wreckage and sorrow. Sorrow for people I hardly know.
They seem like very good people; except to say hello now and then, we’ve never had an extended conversation. They have always maintained their property in the manner that everyone in my neighborhood chooses to do, and their children are adorable.
So why did the storm hit them? We all have huge trees that encircle our properties, but no other house was demolished. They will require a new roof, paint job, windows and heaven knows what else.
They are young and resilient, but totally overwhelmed by the sight that befalls them whenever they look out a window. There’s tarp on the roof to shield them from everyday disturbance, but we don’t know if another storm will arrive and take that away before their house is repaired.
I fear for them. I fear for us. I have seen what Mother Nature can do. I also know that I cannot continue to ruminate over the destruction, but I have seen what tall stately trees that we prune and care for, can do to us.
The neighbors say that when the insurance adjuster arrives, they will begin anew. But I can’t help but think about Dresden during World War II and just two weeks ago, I saw one house that made me bilious and repeatedly sick the way pictures of Dresden in history books have done to me.
How do those who endure earthquakes, tornados and the like begin to manage? One thing I know for sure is that I will never casually view the news feed on TV or the Internet about such aberrations of nature, with just a backward glance, ever again. Now I know about destruction and the desolation it delivers to those who live, so near by.