July 2, 2012


If you haven't been hiding under a rock, you've heard of the massive line of storms that swept the Eastern US, starting somewhere near Chicago and speeding across the country through Virginia, DC, and Maryland, leaving downed trees and devastation in its wake.

Our humble abode lay right in its path, along with those of our neighbors and countless friends. 

It was a pretty wide path.

From inside the storm, it really didn't seem that bad. The storm was short, no more than an hour. So short, in fact, that Peabo - the only kid at home Friday night - slept right through it. It was blowy. Big wind, very little rain (because rain is apparently not in our vernacular this summer). Our power flickered on and off about 20 times, and then it came back and stayed on. 

And I really thought that was it.

When we woke up, I made a quick survey of the yard . Lots of downed branches and debris, but nothing too serious. 

Then I booted up the computer. My daughter's swim meet had been canceled. The neighborhood July 4 beach party, too. Most of my neighbors were without power, with the exception of my block, which is the only part of the neighborhood where the power lines are buried.

Which does make one think that perhaps - just perhaps - we should bury more power lines. Protect that infrastructure, right?

It's not often that I'm in a position to help folks. So I talked Peabo into walking the neighborhood with me and seeing what we could do. And that's when we saw how bad the damage really was.

A few steps from our house, a tree down on top of a car. Around the corner, power lines in the street, brought down when a large tree fell across the road. Two blocks were roped off to keep people safe. Around another corner, a tree down on a neighbor's house. Near the beach (we live by a river and there's a nice little beach), another tree had hit a transformer. 

Trees and branches and debris everywhere. Traffic lights and gas stations and grocery stores without power.

Our community rallied. Neighbors helping neighbors, offering their refrigerators and air conditioners and chain saws and time. The July 4 picnic moved from the beach to the home of our community association president, who had electricity and a pool and a willingness to open his doors to provide respite to his neighbors who were working hard to clean up the damage. 

Peabo and I did our part. We went down to the beach and picked up branches and cleaned up the recycling, which had blown from one side of the beach to the other.

When we got home we had another surprise. I found a shingle in my yard. Just one, but it was enough to send me and my recently acquired, very tall au pair to check the attic. I borrowed his height because I am too short to open the attic on my own. In the 7 years I've lived here, I've never once seen its insides. 

The second he moved the trap door, we could see it. Sunlight streaming through a visible, sizable hole right at the peak of my roof. Multiple shingles had blown off the ridge vent. The hole was long and narrow, and there was no way a bucket under it was going to keep that attic dry. And, given the damage to our small community, and to the much greater community beyond ours, no way I'd get a claim adjustor - let alone a roofer - out to fix it any time soon.

So I turned to my neighbors. Mostly for a ladder, so we could get into the attic, give the bucket a try, and make sure the damage wasn't worse than what we could see. They lent me a step ladder, and my tall au pair braved the 120-degree attic to give it the all clear. Then my neighbors went one step further. They pulled out the really tall ladder and climbed up to the roof. They assessed the damage. They sent me out for supplies. And then, because more rain was due that night, they climbed back up, and they fixed it. 

I remember the blizzard, and the blizzard, and the blizzard - yes, three of them - that hit in early 2010. And the three hairy fairies who helped me dig out. And the earthquake that hit last fall, when all of us on the block rushed outside, first for safety, then to check in and make sure everyone was safe. 

We've had more than our share of natural calamities of late. But it's those times that show you how good people really are. How they help when they can. The power of pulling together.

The power of the village.

I'm grateful to be a part of mine. And grateful, too, that my next-door neighbor and his son-in-law know so very much about roofs.