Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Sometimes It's Not What You Expect
Above is the scene up in Margaretville, New York, on Sunday in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. This was shot from the second floor of a commercial property owned by dear friends of mine. The building in the background is apparently now close to collapse...it housed a number of shops, a pub, and several floors of apartments. Margaretville is hundreds of miles away from me: I'm five long blocks from New York Harbor, and Margaretville is nestled safely up in the Catskill Mountains.
After the freak earthquake earlier in the week, we dutifully prepared to face nature's wrath this weekend. I stocked up on supplies, filled pots with water, shut windows and stayed indoors. Cut off from my boyfriend and others by the shutdown of the city's transit system, I waited out the storm. I listened to the mayor on the radio every once in a while sternly telling people to prepare for the worst.
In the middle of Saturday night I woke up and peered out the front door to a bizarrely apocalyptic sight: in the heavy rain water was flowing over the front sidewalk in a sheet as the trees shook and rustled in the furious wind. But shortly after I woke up in the morning the sun came out, the rain gone, the air calm. While the wind returned in the afternoon, there was no residual flood, and no trees had crashed onto our house. The feral cats out back didn't even seem to be wet.
The storm crashed into shore not far from here, and yet everything in the city had a pro forma feel to it. It took a day for the subway to be switched back on. I saw a neighbor airing out a wet basement. A friend photographed a tree that had split in two. But it was anticlimactic, a lot of wind and rain but it sure didn't feel like what we thought a hurricane would feel like. But in upstate New York, and neighboring Vermont, catastrophe.
Check out the Watershed Post website: amidst the heartbreaking photos is a live blog and a spreadsheet being used to locate survivors stranded by the wild uproar of the mountain rivers and streams. It's all broken roads and bridges and collapsed homes amidst brown water. I go up there once or twice a year to share the green tranquility of my friends' vacation homes: I recognize these familiar sights in disbelief. And the Metro North train line to my godfather's house in the Catskill foothills may be out for months, the trainbed washed completely away in many places.
The authorities had tried to protect something, whether the city or even merely their own reputations. We prepared for the worst, but the worst went elsewhere. We fool ourselves when we think someone other than Nature Herself is in control: by Her merest whim we survive. She moves on without looking back. Until next time.