Sunday, August 28, 2005


I'm sick of disasters. My thoughts are with those living in New Orleans. Audrey, my dear pregnant friend, be safe.

In the mid-90s a rash of "great floods" swept across Missouri's riverbanks. My mother, a scholar of housing, wrote about the importance of place and why people choose to leave or not leave their homes in face of impending disaster. I remember taking weekend trips to help sandbag, dropping off canned corn and spaghetti sauce at the temporary shelters.

I should have learned something from all of this--come away with a greater sense of what "home" means, know how to prepare for losing everything, or at least remember a few anecdotes about everyday heroes. But I'm not any the wiser.

Nature is sublime; the beauty and terror of a natural disaster never loses its edge, no matter how many you live through.


Blogger Sally G said...

This is so true... Nature is amazingly beautiful but cruel at the same time....

11:25 AM  
Blogger Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Global warming...

2:14 PM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

In 1972, My family and I watched from our home on a hill as the entire valley below us flooded from Hurricane Agnes. It was an amazing sight: a river normally a pencil lead laid in the palm of the valley had spread from edge to edge.

One of the main developers in the area was a cheap bastard who had strict limits on building supplies. He would never use two nails when one nail worked almost as well. One of the things he did to same money was not bolt the houses onto the foundations as was required by code.

Therefore, we watched whole houses float downstream. With our binoculars, we figured out whose houses they were. With gallows humor, we bet as to whether or not the house would get caught in the trestles of train bridge.

Afterwards, we went down into the valley, and helped where we could. We shoveled out mud. We washed and dried clothes. We found lost dogs. The smell of flood mud is powerful, and once you get it in your nose, it is a scent you will always recognize.

We went to the neighborhood where we used to live, and helped where we could. I remember seeing the high-water mark in the living room of our former neighbors' house, and, at 13, reaching up over my head to touch it.

Federal aid came in, a whole town of mobile homes set up in an empty field, and for the most part, the community was put back together better than it was before.

But there were precious things lost, too...many precious in memory only, which made them even more valuable, lost forever.

Something a flood offers that a fire doesn't is the chance for a community to get together. That's the only good memory of that summer for me.

That and the cases of Dr. Pepper that floated into my friend Tom's basement.


4:04 PM  

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