Godspeed, Miss Norma. As your family wrote on Facebook yesterday, "We cannot control the wind but we can direct the sail.” —unknown."
Today, I rerun a post from September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of what we call "9/11" in the United States. But September 11, 2011 had a different meaning for me. This is the fifth anniversary of my returning home from vacation after a natural disaster hit my area of New York State.
My first post from September 11, 2011 was yesterday. This, with minor edits, was my second post.
The events of September 11, 2011 gave "9/11" a whole new meaning for me and my spouse. It is the anniversary of a homecoming. The day before, we drove over seven and a half hours from Maine to upstate New York, knowing our neighborhood had been flooded September 7-8. We weren't able to arrive in time to beat a curfew, and police would not allow us back into our neighborhood. We had to drive another 35 minutes just to find a motel room. But now, September 11, 2011, we are let in, and our not knowing is about to end.
We have come home and I write the below post from my home computer because - another miracle - we have power.
For my faithful readers, thank you for bearing with me during this week of remembering. Is it strange that I returned to my flooded neighborhood with a feeling of - gratitude?
Some of you may be getting tired of my recent posts about a storm called Lee and the over 10 inches of rain dumped on the Binghamton, New York area a few days ago (on top of what we had received from Tropical Storm Irene), causing flash floods and then record river flooding. But it is very real to me and to over 20,000 people evacuated from this area. If I had been home and not on vacation, I would have been one of those evacuees.
My son was one of the evacuees, told to leave his trailer park after a mudslide hit the area. Turns out about half the park was lost, trailers tossed everywhere. His was not one of them. The water stopped just short of his floor, so his contents remained dry.
He had a lot of problems fleeing on the damaged roads, but made it to our house in time for the river flooding to begin. We have flood walls in our neighborhood, but they were fully breached for the first time since they were built in the 1930's (5 years ago there was some spillage but the rains stopped just in time). Areas in easy walking distance of my house were totally under water, including a Home Depot and a major area employer. Our house remained an island along with part of our neighborhood. Other parts of the neighborhood, on the other side of Main Street, are still under water,I understand.
The evacuees returned between yesterday and today at least on this side of Main St. Our local supermarket reopened yesterday. Many, many basements were flooded. No houses were swept away in our immediate neighborhood but there is a lot of damage. There was a breach of diesel tanks several doors down from us at a municipal water pumping station so diesel also spilled into the water. Frankly, it stinks of diesel everywhere.
Ironically we are no longer under a boil water order but the order remains in force several blocks from us.
So why am I grateful?
1. The obvious - our house is here, and is livable. Our immediate neighbors are here and their houses are livable.
2. No lives were lost that I am aware of, although one neighbor had to be rescued from deep water because he tried to evacuate using a street that turned out to be the wrong street to use. Ironically his house was probably the least damaged of those on our block. His car is still under water on the infamous "other side of Main Street". He got his share of ribbing today.
3. Neighbors have pulled together, not that this is ever an unfriendly community. We got offers of help from children of one next door neighbor (the one I wrote about in July when his wife died). One neighbor cooked breakfast for my son while he was here. I am told there were impromptu block parties last night along with a mystery fireworks show. And gosh, we missed it!
4. The firemen. Yes. Firemen from Throop, PA were here earlier yesterday helping to pump out basements. (I don't know the exact distance from here but they are close to Scranton, which is an hour away. And PA has its own problems right now!) Also in our neighborhood were firemen from Moravia, NY, which is in Cayuga County, to the south and west of Syracuse. One of their trucks was decorated with a 9/11/01 commemoration.
5. My T-Shirt. As soon as I got home I knew I would be getting dirty so I dug for an old T-Shirt. And what leaped into my hands but a NYFD T-Shirt I purchased at Macy's right after 9/11, when I was visiting my downstate mother in law. Proceeds from the T-Shirt benefited the first responders of that day. And now they are up here, 10 years later, helping us. For what it is worth, all or almost all of the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies in this area were canceled due to the flood.
I hope soon I can return to the "regularly scheduled blog programming" but for now, what is happening in my neighborhood deserves my time and blogging attention. What you will not get is pictures of houses, as I will not document that kind of misery. But businesses are fair game and - well, I have to be able to get close enough first.
Tomorrow is another day....