Monica didn’t know what was worse: the silent sunrise after the storm revealing the debris covered yards and streets or the radio hosts desperately asking listeners to call in and report what was happening in their neighborhoods. Lou had unearthed their “emergency kit” with the dead battery flashlights and crank radio because the power had gone out sometime during the night. But very few folks were calling in because they either had no cell service or they were conserving their batteries until the power was restored.
The morning chill was disconcerting, out of sync. Most of these storms happened at the tail end of summer when you had to sweat out a power outage, not worry about keeping warm in late October. Then she started to think about all the food that was bound to spoil in the ‘fridge, and if the water level in the sump got too high and their basement flooded. At least the gas stove was working so they could boil water and fry up some eggs.
So no internet, no TV, no lights, no heat. Oh, it’s quaint for a morning to congratulate yourself on your resourcefulness, but then it becomes painfully clear how dependent you are on the magical wires and screens.
The news trucks finally were able to make it out onto the roads to report back to the radio studios, and it started to feel like “The War of the Worlds.” People stranded, boats in their backyards, brackish water creating tide-pools with their living room furniture. Panic at gas stations, abandoned pets, all the stories designed to make you scared, to make you hide and hoard.
But then it happens. People check on their neighbors, invite them over to sit by the fireside. “We’re all in this together.” Libraries and firehouses open their doors, and as the power comes back on -line these “comfort stations” become a hub. The old-fashioned town square where people talk to each other. We go back to “odd/even” gas days, but there’s still a cop directing the cars to the pumps.
Monica and Lou got their power back after three days, and Monica cleaned out the ‘fridge, went shopping and re-stocked. Lou bought new batteries for the flashlights. But two years later she’s still reading about people fighting with insurance companies. People who can’t even begin re-building their homes yet. She feels a shiver of guilt as she swipes her screen to read the next news story.