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Florence in Words

Hurricane, only two days after, and then a few days more…

It’s a blue-sky day as I look out my window and remember the pouring rain and the fear. I couldn’t move the large pots of trees and shrubs into my apartment. And I worried that they might become missiles aimed at my own windows or at my neighbor’s. Don, Jorge, and Jeannette, who happened to be in my apartment , turned the table on my deck upside down and pushed some of the large pots close to the building wall. I took in the light chairs and the empty flower pots. We left the three wooden planters where they were, against the northernmost railings.

All survived, though the wooden planter next to the building wall had been turned on its side by the north wind. Righted, the large succulent and mass of ivy bounced right back. So I was lucky, as was my neighbor across the way from where I sit typing, who took in her pots of flowers, but left those in bins hooked to her railings. They, too, survived. Like most of Manhattan, I escaped. If some people grumble now about the evacuations, the closed subways, bus lines, airports, train stations, most appreciate the intent.

But I have been thinking every day about others, the 45 deaths, the disappearance of houses, shops, gas stations, bridges, roads, some as the hurricane moved into North Carolina long before it hit New York City, and others in the “tropical storm” that moved up into New England, perhaps most surprisingly in rural Vermont.

I can’t also help remembering Katrina—was it seven years ago? My granddaughter Florence was entering medical school at USC, and I flew to Los Angeles for the ceremony of her white-coating. She had insisted that her mother Alice be there too, though her mother had wanted to be in Mississippi, where she knew her California furniture and belongings would have been moved into her new house on the Gulf Coast just before Katrina hit. We were happy that Alice was with us, but she was intent only on getting to Mississippi. Though we would have stopped her, she left two days later in a pickup truck filled with four electric generators, many gallons of water, and other supplies needed in a disaster area. One of her houses was a pile of rubble. Two others, brick, were standing, but their interiors, filled with water, needed to be gutted, and all her precious furniture, clothing, picture albums, lost.

Alice spent four years rebuilding her houses. Determination and grit fueled her energy. She took a few breaks here in New York City, but never stopped until she considered her work finished. Others along the eastern seaboard and in New England will now begin similar work. They need help. Many volunteers came to Mississippi; perhaps as many will offer their services in Vermont, New Jersey, and other places.

I held this blog, thinking I wouldn’t send it, since I couldn’t suggest that other people go and help physically when I could not. But the stories I’ve been reading each day in the New York Times and the pictures I’ve seen each evening on TV cry out for volunteers. So what about another kind of help? What about sending checks and also books to washed-out schools and libraries? I’ll look for some specifics and write another blog soon.
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