The unexpected storm
*Special thanks to Dr. Teresa Burns Murphy for serving as today’s guest contributor to Your Daily Dose of Gratitude. For more from Teresa, check out her website.
On Friday evening, June 29th, my husband and I were expecting a thunderstorm to pass through the Washington, D.C., area where we live. We were not expecting the June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Derecho. The derecho, a fast-moving thunderstorm with violent winds, hit our area around 10:30 p.m. We were on the third floor of our house watching television when everything went dark. Assuming this was merely the thunderstorm that had been forecast, we thought the lights would flicker back on momentarily. Nevertheless, having been raised in Arkansas, an area where lots of tornadoes occur, we took no chances. We grabbed a flashlight and headed downstairs.
As soon as I reached the second floor of our house, I could see the trees outside swaying furiously as if someone had aimed a giant hair dryer at them and was sending a line-drive blast of wind their way. I had never heard the term derecho, Spanish for “straight ahead,” applied to weather before. Clearly, this storm was heading straight for us – full steam ahead, and I was more than a little wary about passing in front of the huge window that stood between me and those feverishly flailing branches. It was a relief when we made it to the bottom floor of our house and found a spot that didn’t put us in the path of any potentially flying glass. As the trees swooshed in the wind and the thunder rattled our nerves, giant bursts of otherworldly lightning lit up the room every few seconds.
When the storm was finally over, I came back upstairs and looked out the window. I live in a community with hundreds of other people, and someone always has a light on. The only light I could see was the glow of a flashlight, much like mine, coming from a neighbor’s house behind ours. I wandered around the house for a while, looking out the windows and trying to see what was going on outside. Emergency rescue sirens blared in the distance, but it was too dark to see anything. I finally fell asleep on a couch on the second floor, expecting that when I woke up the next morning the electricity would be on. I was wrong.
All day Saturday while we were waiting in the sweltering heat for our electric power to come back on, we experienced a different kind of power – the power that people and a fortunate chain of events often generate in stressful times. I will always be grateful for several things that happened while we waited for the power we had become so accustomed to relying on to return. I am grateful for the tenuous cell phone connection that enabled me to let my parents know we were okay. I am grateful that our car had not been smashed by the tree standing next to it and that we could drive it to the grocery store. I am grateful that a grocery store near our house was open and that we were able to get food and access to a Wi-Fi connection that allowed me to let our daughter, at camp, know we had made it through the storm just fine. I am grateful to our next-door neighbor who loaned us a battery-powered radio so we could stay abreast of what was happening in the world from which we’d been so abruptly disconnected. And, I am so very grateful to those emergency rescue teams and the employees of the power companies who worked, and continue to work, in the intense heat hour after hour.
My husband and I spent an uncomfortable Saturday inside our house until around 6:30 that evening when our air conditioner surged back on. We were extremely lucky. The June 2012 Mid-Atlantic and Midwest Derecho left a vast swath of destruction in its wake. At least 22 people were killed. As I’m writing this, people in our area are still without power, suffering in heat that continues to be stifling.
Like a lot of storms in our lives, this one brought unanticipated challenges and opportunities. I thought about how unexpected events can change us as I was walking around my neighborhood on Monday morning. Other than a few broken tree branches and a downed transformer, everything looked pretty much the way it had when I walked on Friday morning before the derecho hit. But everyone I passed on that walk seemed to be more alert, aware that opportunities to be grateful come our way daily. It just may be that the memory of those positive experiences will be what sustains us when future life experiences are more virulent than predicted, providing us with the power necessary to weather storms that seem insurmountable.
*For more from Teresa, check out her website.