Sunday, April 8, 2012

Disaster and the Opportunity to Change for the Better

 (If you are looking for my Civil War Saturday post, please look at yesterday's post, which discusses the Battle of Shiloh and a legend that turned out to be true).

September 8, 2011.  The day it all changed.

As readers of my blog know (boy, do they know) that was the day that torrential rains from Tropical Storm Lee made our rivers and streams cry uncle, causing flash and river flooding.  So much was much has changed, and we are now at the 7 month anniversary.

Houses still lie vacant in my neighborhood and others (I was one of the lucky ones).  Some businesses closed, and their buildings lie vacant, too.  It is not pretty.  Sometimes I think I never, ever, want to see another building stripped inside to the wall studs, ever every again.  Or a house spray painted with an X, a P or a K.

There is a flip side to disaster, though, as we are finding.  Disaster can trigger change for the better.  Businesses can be rethought and strengthened.  People can redesign their homes for the better.  People can come out stronger for the experience (although that is a very hard process and I don't want to minimize it or turn it into a cliche.)

In our neighborhood near Johnson City, New York, called Westover by locals, our Aldi was redesigned and reopened totally remodeled, with energy saving equipment.  It is better than ever.

I've blogged time and again about BAE Systems, a defense plant (well, a former one) near my home.  This is what it looked like, abandoned, about 10 days ago.  Eventually (maybe this year?) the building will be torn down, with the land hopefully being used for park land.  Could you imagine a green space coming out of disaster? (I hope they keep the landscaping in the front, including these Bradford Pears).

BAE Systems tried their best to recover their facility in my neighborhood.  (photo below taken during the recovery effort.) The rapid recover never happened.  The effort to salvage the building and the custom made machinery within was not successful.  BAE ended up moving several miles down the road.  Not good for Westover but.... so doing, it may revitalize Endicott, a once-great village which has fallen upon hard times.  Buildings abandoned by IBM (which, ironically, began business in Binghamton, New York), are occupied once again, and BAE can take these buildings and redesign them as they desire.

Endicott's main shopping avenue is in walking distance of the facility, and "The Avenue" is filled with lunchtime shoppers once again.  I can only hope our loss is their gain. (I can also hope they stay beyond the 5 years they have promised to.)

Even in nearby Twin Orchards, an area terribly devastated by the flood (their flooding included raw sewage), an 80 year old man grabbed disaster by the horns and pulled his business back into the sunshine.
It isn't visible in this exterior photo, but Pete totally redesigned the layout of the restaurant.

In personal matters, I have a brand new HE washer and brand new high efficiency dryer, something I would have waited for years to do, if not pushed into it. (Doing laundry is now like operating the Starship Enterprise.) Some old home canned goods I was dithering over got tossed for me by nature.  Then there is my new living room floor.  I now longer have the carpet I hated.  Not that I am happy over why I got these new things, but the fact is, I was able to get them.

This is not to say that everything that happened is happiness and sunshine.  Change is hard.  Many have suffered tremendous financial loss.  Jobs have been lost, as a number of area employers did close forever, including some in and near my neighborhood.  But sometimes we can use a disaster as a reason for change that has been put off.  We are pushed, and we make the change.

And, sometimes we are the better for it.


  1. I love your post, having survived a flood back with Hurricane Ivan. I also love your post because for families with special needs kids there is movement from the shock and grief of diagnosis through to addressing family needs to realizing that having a child with special needs can not only grow but transform your family - and yourself - to an amazing place of strength.

    thank you for sharing!

  2. My heart goes out to all of you hit by the floods. It breaks my heart when I see the damage on the news, But I'm delighted to hear of the silver lining. Some neighbourhoods pull together and even strengthen in the face of adversity. May it never happen again xx

  3. Very thoughtful post with lots for me to think about. I wish you and your community as you continue to rebuild your town, homes and youselves. May your strength continue to carry you on!

  4. Thank you, Gina. People certainly did pull together here in many ways. We chope it will not happen again. With changing weather patterns, there is lot of anxiety here about that.

  5. Thank you, Marilyn, for your good thoughts and wishes.

  6. Claudia, it is certainly amazing what can come out of adversary. I have a brother in law who has autism, and I've seen some of what you mention in my husband's family.


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