As the waters ascended, the media descended.
‘You’ve lost everything. You are a victim. Why aren’t you resentful? What’s wrong with you? Can’t you understand that you need to be resentful?’
The media was resentful. The media knew how to run the big hurricane story, but it wasn’t getting the quotes.
It had perfected the big hurricane story twelve years before. The public was supposed to be pounded day after day by hopelessness, helplessness, and anguish. The back story was to become the underlying theme of the week—people in America are powerless to affect their own lives, and blame must be attached. Plenty of face time for talking heads attaching blame.
No Cajun Navy wanted around here, thank you very much.
What the media was baffled continually to experience was--
Thumbs Up for Texas!
We can take care of ourselves and our own!
Now, a person who has lost his or her house and all its contents is in a bad position and will be under stress for a long time to come. It’s even worse, of course, in the case of injury or death.
It’s the attitude.
It’s the people whom the talking heads pit against one another helping one another instead. That’s what it is.
That’s what heartened us in other parts of the nation while we sympathized with those who were flooded, and while we prayed, and while we did whatever else we felt called upon to do.
All this takes me back twelve years to the Eberhart’s own personal Thanksgiving freight train. Back then, our family lived way out a peninsula into the ocean, off the coast of Maine.
Three of our children were home that year for Thanksgiving, which is all of them except our oldest son who was in Bulgaria. One of our daughters had brought a friend home from college. The friend lived in New Orleans, where three months before that Thanksgiving, Hurricane Katrina had landed. That friend was eager for a calming Maine Thanksgiving experience.
She did get an experience, that’s for sure.
As a family, we took a cold, beach, night-walk the evening before Thanksgiving. It was cold to us; it was frigid to the young woman from New Orleans.
Pink and rosy we all returned to the house and bedded down. Maybe snow tomorrow, we suggested—it smelled like snow out there, and there was a ring around the moon.
“Does snow have a smell?” the New Orleans friend asked, amazed.
“Come back outside,” said our daughter, “I’ll teach you to smell it on the air.”
Sure enough, dawn came on Thanksgiving Day with lovely, fat snowflakes sifting slowly down the sky and piling up wherever the surface was not bare earth—the ground hadn’t frozen yet.
For the entertainment of our New Orleans guest, we were happy that a flock of twenty wild turkeys came into our meadow, scratching away at the snow, searching for windfall apples from our trees and for the cracked corn the jays scatter widely from the feeders.
The New Orleans friend’s own family’s experience of Katrina had been relatively minor, but destruction had been all around them. By contrast, so short a time later, the comfort and the easiness of this Maine holiday for her, she said, was soothing.
About midday on Thanksgiving, the sky began to darken, and the snow came more heavily. I was in the office, which was the converted loft of our barn. I was writing. The girls and my wife were in the kitchen preparing the creamed onions which are my wife’s specialty. We always brought the onions—traveling about twenty miles inland to admire that family’s alpacas and sheep and then to dig in at a splendid meal, with children, friends, and family.
Suddenly, from nowhere, there came a calamitous boom.
It was not a single clap of a boom but a rolling, swelling, reverberating roar, as though a vast freight train were passing by—and passing very closely. Its madcap passage lasted less than a minute but it shook the entire barn and the house.
I leapt up and dashed outside to see. Frantically, I looked this way and that. What was destroyed? The barn? The house? The roofs? The trees? All were as before.
Something massive had just happened—but what was it? And even now there suddenly came a sharp fall of icy, battering hail.
We were stunned. What had happened?
What had happened was this--
Within two miles from us a type F-1 tornado (100 mph winds) whipped across our peninsula. For 30 seconds it careened across the landscape, uprooting entire trees, snapping trunks more than a foot thick as though they were sticks, shifting two summer cottages off their moorings—one of them by seven feet—tearing dirt off the rocks, and wrecking a degree of havoc that was astounding to see when we explored it a day later.
Then, as a waterspout, it rollicked off across the bay.
Almost never do we even get tornados on the Maine coast.
A few days later, our daughter and her New Orleans friend flew back to college, in Virginia, having had a very unusual Thanksgiving experience in Maine, especially after New Orleans’ exposure to a massive hurricane shortly before.
No one was physically hurt by our tornado. It was miniscule as compared with the havoc of Katrina and more lately of Harvey.
But I think of the experience of our Thanksgiving freight train when I contemplate the gargantuan power of nature unleashed. Nature is more powerful than we are, and there’s not a single thing we can do about it.
We should know our place.
The universe is not about us.
That’s why I admire the spirit of Texas.