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Friday, August 26, 2011

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night

It was a dark and stormy night. The wind screamed like a lunatic on fire, as it clawed a path of devastation through our tiny Caribbean island, leveling buildings and lives, and rearranging the face of St. Croix forever. Actually, it was the longest night of my life.

I remember the Weather Channel reports hours preceding Hurricane Hugo’s arrival, warning us to take shelter. I was making potato salad, and chatting on the phone with my friend Mary. We were coordinating our evacuation efforts. I wasn’t afraid because I had nothing to compare this too. The strongest hurricane I had ever experienced in the Northeast was a category one, named Gloria, who turned out to be nothing more than a rainy day with a name. The only reason I was evacuating was because a group of us had been invited to stay at a really cool furniture store for the hoity toity. “Bring some beer, and music!” I giggled, as I spooned potato salad into a plastic container.

There were nine of us in all at the shelter, including my six year old daughter and nine yr old son. I use the term shelter loosely as this place was luxurious and way out of my price range. Choosing a comfy corner to call home, we placed our belongings along the wall of the foyer on the marble floor, and then set out to do some snooping. This place was ridiculously expensive, small pieces of art for five thousand dollars, sofas for ten thousand. I spent most of the time telling my kids not to touch anything!

Somewhere between mid-night and the third dance, Hurricane Hugo turned ugly. I remember I had just checked on the kids, they were sleeping soundly in an office down the hall. I was starting to get nervous as the wind pulled at the plywood shielding the windows, causing the nails to squeak like rats as they were pried loose. Heading back to the foyer the building began to shake. A terrifying crash followed…along with blood curdling screams!

The one hundred and fifty foot front of this brand new building, built to sustain winds up to 200 mph, had been sucked outward, leaving only the three remaining walls to hold it up. The wind tore through our fancy shelter like a mob of looters bent on destruction.

Running for cover we hid in the bathroom, and that’s where we spent the night, waiting for the rest of building to come down on top of us. Listening, like frightened children to their parents fight, we stayed huddled together in the darkness, as the angry wind smashed everything within reach.

At dawn we emerged from our bunker shocked and disoriented; it was as though a bomb had gone off, decimating the landscape to such an extent that it was unrecognizable. Hugo had destroyed or damaged ninety percent of the buildings in St. Croix. None of us had homes to return to. But, we were alive and extremely grateful for that.

Why am I telling you this story? I’m telling it because I want everybody to take the threat of Hurricane Irene seriously, and because I know what it’s like to live in the Northeast and to have never felt the bite of a serious hurricane. So, my most precious and dear people, whom I love and can’t spare…batten down the hatches and TAKE THIS THING SERIOUSLY!!


I'm sending out prayers.


Jessica said...

I have been thinking about Gloria all week too. I guess I was maybe 14? or 15? It seemed so exciting that a "hurricane" was coming to Massachusetts. The radio kept playing "Gloria" by U2 and "Gloria" by the Doors. And then... wait for it... nothing. Rained for like 30 min. I felt totally cheated, kinda like when someone tells you over and over how great a movie is and then you go see it and your like, "this is it?" Since then, having gone through a couple real hurricanes when we were in NC, I hope that Irene is this generation's "Gloria" and that all our friends and family stay safe!

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Whoa! Glad you got out of there okay, and I hope the same holds true for those this weekend. Stay safe.

Leah Griffith said...

Yeah Jessica,Gloria was a dud. It looks like Irene aka Irain, is going to dump huge amounts of rain along with the wind. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed for our little tribe scattered throughout the east coast.

Leah Griffith said...

Thanks Karen, that was by far the most frightening night of my life. Luckily I'm living in Florida, well out of Irene's range. It's the rest of the east coast that I'm worried about.

pixielui said...

Why do I have this feeling that Hugo was the first male name to be used for a hurricane. I went through and ice storm that was pretty bad. The good news was that we did have shelter and luckily still owned a regular old fire place.

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Pix, I hate ice scary. I've been missing you. See you Monday for the play!

JIM said...

I agree people better take this real serious. Look at history folks... I have lots of family and friends up there and will keep good thoughts for all of them!!!

Leah Griffith said...

Amen Jim!

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