Sunday, August 28, 2011

irene and joy

We all hunkered down in our homes to ride out the storm: I, in Eagleville, PA; my sister in Hoboken, NJ; and my father & stepmother in Allentown, PA. Irene came in softly at first, raining lightly for hours and hours on Saturday. That night, the winds blew, but not too badly.

I kept updating my Facebook wall. Friends posted messages of prayer and support that made me feel less worried. Many of my former students are now in their thirties and forties, with children of their own. A very few even have grandchildren! Keeping up with their lives brings me so much joy.

I went to bed at about 10 p.m. Saturday night and woke up during the night feeling sweaty and hot. I looked at the clock and realized that we had lost power. I tossed and turned for almost an hour, worrying about how I would cope without electricity and wondering how long it would be off. With no power, the lack of air conditioning caused the 100% humidity to steam up the place. I couldn't open the windows because of the rain. I listened to the wind softly singing and was glad it wasn't worse.

The power came back on at around 3:30 a.m. I turned the lights on and got up to celebrate. CNN was re-telling all of the accumulated stories of the storm, from North Carolina to Maryland. The network anchors also talked about all of the things that could go wrong in New York City. They played tapes of Mayor Bloomberg's speeches about the evacuation and preparation. My goodness, he really can talk and talk and talk! CNN said very little about Pennsylvania. I finally went back to bed at 6:00 a.m.

At 9:00 a.m., my cat, Joe, decided it was time for me to get up and started pestering me. I lasted 30 minutes and was defeated at 9:30 a.m. I knew there was a good chance that the Schuylkill River had flooded during the night because it had done so twice in the 13 months I have lived here. But I wasn't super concerned because it had never reached my building. So I actually started coffee, fed the cat and fixed breakfast before I went out on the balcony to look.

What I saw when I did finally look still boggles my mind. The water was very high and very deep and was much closer to my building than I had ever seen it. I got out my camera phone and started taking pictures. I ran up to the loft to check my email and found one from the apartment manager. She indicated that the river would not crest until 2 p.m.

I called my family. Everyone was okay. My sister's street in Hoboken was flooded and she had no power, but she was fine. All morning, I checked on the progress of the Schuylkill every 30 minutes or so. I could not believe how quickly it continued to rise. I wasn't worried since I live on the 5th and 6th floors, but it was amazing to watch!

I checked on various members of my management team. Everyone was fine. The river finally crested at almost 4 p.m. Thereafter, every time I peeked out, the water got lower and lower. I stopped worrying.

At 5:24 p.m., the welcome news came that one of my co-workers had given birth to a sweet baby boy, 8 pounds, 7 ounces, 21 inches long. Baby Chase had arrived! Wonderful excitement. They even sent me pictures! I quickly forwarded them to the whole management team. Excited responses came back from everyone.

What a wonderful end to a rather stressful two days!!! In the moment, as I celebrated the birth of that new baby, I thought what a wonderful example of the highs and lows of life these 48 hours had been: the anxiety of the approaching hurricane; the fear that accompanied the loss of power; the adrenalin that came with my first look at the flooding; the relief at seeing the waters beginning to recede; and the sheer joy that bubbled up with the news of Chase's birth.

Then, a few minutes ago, my phone rang. It was my older brother calling me from Rochester, New York. He had just been talking to our mother and she mentioned that we had survived Irene, so he called to check on me. My brother is a bit of a recluse and has probably called me less than ten times in the last thirty years. Usually, if I want to talk to him, I have to call him! So hearing his voice was a real balm at the close of this stormy weekend!

I feel so grateful to be alive and I feel so blessed by family and friends. No matter what happens, something joyous is just around the corner, waiting, giggling secretly, knowing it will make me smile and laugh. I look forward to all the times that joy will visit me in the future!!! I hope that you do too!

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