Tuesday, September 22, 2009

20 years ago this morning....

I awoke face down on a very nice area rug in Greensboro NC. I didn't wake until 11:30 AM, but it was the next couple of minutes later that got me. When I peered out the windows, there were limbs all over the front yard. I asked Mrs. T (our hostess) what had happened, and she quietly, almost haltingly said, "Girls, the storm came through early this morning. Y'all slept through it."

That's right. I slept through a hurricane.

Hurricane Hugo. 20 years ago last night, it made landfall just east of Charleston, and instead of skirting up the coast as we expected, it came inland, hitting Charlotte, Greensboro, Roanoke and other interior portions of Virginia and eventually Pennsylvania and even up to Buffalo.

We were staying in Greensboro because we had tickets for the Elton John concert, originally scheduled for September 22, 1989 in Charlotte. We figured the storm would go up the coast, toward the Outer Banks and the Tidewater area....... no problem, right?


No concert. We stayed in Greensboro until Saturday afternoon, at which point we trekked on over to Raleigh where other friends had gathered. By Sunday morning, I was tired and just wanted to be home until I knew what would happen next. We all knew school was shut down indefinitely. I dropped off one person from our travel party in Fort Mill (just outside Charlotte). His neighborhood looked like a war zone..... trees and uprooted stuff and mangled fencing. Half his street had water and electricity, the other half did not. I remember he asked about his sister, and his mom mentioned that she was up the street at a neighbor's taking a shower because they were in the water-service area, and their home had none. I dropped off another person in Spartanburg, then headed home to wait it out.

A week later, we were back, but things would never be "back to normal." Even though we weren't there for the height of the storm, as some of our local friends were, an event like that changes you and your perspective. I never really thought I was invincible or even immortal. Having attended way too many family funerals as a youngster gave me lots of exposure to the life-and-death cycle. I knew from losing two classmates in high school that, yes indeed, it could happen to any of us and eventually it would catch up to us. So I held no illusions of invincibility or immortality. But I had an illusion of innocence -- that somehow, the world was still fresh and wonderful if I just believed it so.

That was a casualty of the storm. Wisdom and knowledge have their price, usually consisting of selling your innocence and your idealism.

At least the NBA can thank Hugo for something -- they got a star out of the deal. Tim Duncan was supposed to be an Olympic swimmer. The Olympic-size training pool on his island got destroyed in the storm, so he changed sports.

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