Five minutes before the ten o’clock hour on December 10th, “If you live in the Buena Vista area, take cover immediately-in a basement, hallway, closet, or interior room, protected by as many walls as possible!” My dog Max and I, headed for the smallest bathroom. It had no windows. I put on a hooded sweatshirt, pulled the hood up over my head. Covered up with blankets and pillows in the bathtub, we rode out the storm. Put my arm around Max–who trembled with fear. “Max, I don’t know how this will turn out. If we die, we’ll die together.”
I would never again complain about TV meteorologists and interrupted programs. Lightning and thunder shook the foundation. Then it became ghostly quiet. Wind blew, the likes of which I’d never heard before. The lights went out. Wind propelled objects bounced off outside house walls. It was over, after three of the longest moments lived in a lifetime.
Revealed by flashlight, the ceilings were still there. We were still alive–although a bit shaken. I looked out the front door toward the lawn. There were roof shingles scattered about. I dared not walk around, because of downed power lines.
Thus began four days without the comforts of heat, electricity, and water. There was no electricity for eight days. A battery powered radio provided music and local news. Two battery lights illuminated my dark, damp dungeon.
My neighbor and myself made daily trips to fetch river water for toilet flushing. Before stored food went bad, I cooked bratwurst and hamburgers on the barbecue grill. Cold bratwurst sufficed as breakfast fare, with bananas and oranges.
Basics such as drinking water, ice for coolers, became a real concern. Relief centers opened on the third day. No bathing or hot showers for six days. Mornings began with my caffeine-addicted body craving coffee and hot food.
It was a nightmare, eighteen days ago, the effects of which will continue for some time to come. My wife had been hospitalized during the storm–and has since recovered. I visited her daily, except for the day after, and could always find decent meals there.
The local landscape has changed. A daily parade of black trucks, descend like vultures, gathering debris. A blue man’s shirt decorated a tree, near the destroyed fire station. Yesterday, I talked with someone at a local business. She and her family lost their home. She appeared calm, as always, but I know deep down the scars were there. The neat little farm, down the road, on the curve is no longer there. One of the horses died. The same two Great Pyrenees dogs guarded what was left.