Sunday, September 21, 2008

The week time stood still

Without electrical power – all that gadgets that we use to pass the time do not function long or at all, eventually the cell phone, iPod, and laptop need to be charged. Its within three hours of week without electricity to some parts of the greater Louisville metropolitan area, and to be frank it 'sucks' to not have power. I can't begin to imagine the losses faced by those who had to flee their homes because of the hurricanes. All that I can do is focus on what happened locally. My parents and I were without electricity – their house and my apartment are in neighboring cities and a mere five minutes apart from car if you are willing to ignore posted speed limits. My aunt's and grandmother's homes both had electricity. The damage to my home would be fixed and paid for by my landlord. My parents lost a few shingles that were easily replaced through the effort of Dad and his neighbors. My grandmother had some branches in her yard – but no actual damage to her house. My aunt and uncle lost some shingles and a patch of siding but nothing that rendered their house structurally unsound. All it took was a short drive to see that we got off lucky.

Large trees are beautiful to look at, they provide us with shade – helping keep our yards and houses cooler than they would be without them. Trees also help produce the oxygen we need to survive. It was sad to see so many trees – some many years older than me ripped out from the soil or to have large branches ripped from their trunks leaving raw alive wood exposed in gaping wounds that no amount of antibacterial ointment can heal. Once you looked past the destruction of the trees you could see the fences, windows, cars, and roofs damaged. You could see the wires ripped from polls entwined with the trees on the ground and in some cases see the polls themselves lying across the roads.

It made me realize how much more fortunate we were than a huge portion of the people who make up our community. We had family with power that could help us save the food in our refrigerators and freezers. We had bank accounts with large enough balances and well managed credit cards that would let us make the extra purchases we would need to. And we had the ability to rely on each other for strength and a love of reading books a hobby that does not require electricity until the sun goes down. Our hot water was provided through natural gas and the delivery of natural gas was not affected by the power outages. Thankfully for everyone – the week was free of rain and the temperature was remarkably cooler making it tolerable without the air conditioning running constantly.

The storms were bad enough that I did not have work on Monday and the majority of local schools were closed for the week. When we reported to work on Tuesday – I was sharing the lack of electricity with most of my work group. We were all thankful to go to work and have electricity. Fire departments and local schools became distribution points for ice, water, hot meals, and showers for those in need. Neighbors worked together to clean up the debris. Electrical company employees worked round the clock and many came from out of the area to help restore power to the 500,000+ without power in Souther Indiana and the Louisville area. When we did get the chance to watch TV or check the news on-line we were confronted with scenes of the devastation in Texas and news of the human made destruction on Wall Street. In all it made for a surreal week.

Power is coming back on around town. Schools are scheduled to re-open on Monday. Many churches did not cancel services this morning – but are meeting without electricity; encouraging congregations to sit in the front of the sanctuary and sing along with the piano instead of the organ. Stores and restaurants spent the week cleaning up, throwing away millions of dollars in stock, and eagerly awaiting shipments so that they could reopen. We will wait for a long time to see how many of the small businesses that were shut down due to the weather are able to survive. The local economy will be impacted throughout the rest of the year and into 2009 – especially as the U.S. economy quakes in lieu of the recent actions of the federal government.

All was not horrible this week – my cousin had a good prenatal check-up, I spoke often with my brother who is stationed in Iraq, I spent an excellent day with my niece, my cat enjoyed staying at my parents while I stayed at my aunts. Cairo enjoys all the furniture at my parents more than she likes any of my furniture – she definitely has good tastes. Cinnamon my parents beloved almost 13 year old golden retriever is recovering from an eye infection and though her increasing age and escalating health problems she remains cheerful. Cinnamon and Cairo are stellar at practicing the art of d├ętente.

So – its now about 2 hours from the one week anniversary of the power going out. I find myself skipping church – with Cairo sleeping on my right and Cinnamon asleep on my feet. Tomorrow is my bonus day off work. Hopefully I will have electricity at home by the end of tomorrow – I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.

One of my parents neighbors was generous and gave us a bowl full of backyard tomatoes – the basil in the backyard weathered the storm. This afternoon looks promising with a little electricity to help boil the water – it seems a simple lunch is in order giving us the rest of the afternoon to reflect and appreciate just how lucky our family was this week while at the same time encourage us to do what we can for those still suffering; not just from the storms but those who are struggling spiritually, emotionally, and financially in this country and in the rest of the world.