We were living in the dark, unable to eat or drink because there was no way to cook or even use the electric can opener to open cans. (I’ve since re-thought my entire appliance list)
We were in the dark from six at night until eight in the morning. If the days were cold, the nights were even colder. We not only began to fight for our own lives but we were struggling to save our cats and dogs who were freezing with us and thirsty too. We used candles to melt enough water to drink but they too soon dwindled.
On Sunday night a tree hit the house, destroying the front porch, imprisoning us. We only had one entrance. It was too heavy to move and we were terrified of the next one that would fall. It sounded like a bomb exploding when it hit and the whole house shook from its rafters.
My mother is not easily upset. But she was at that point crying everytime we heard a tree fall in the woods around us. In the final count when we did get out…my daughter and son in law counted 63 trees around our house that fell in a thirty foot range. Four hit our house. Miraculously, we weren’t killed, horrifyingly, some of our neighbors were, and some of the elderly that didn’t get out, kept thinking they would have their utilities restored soon, froze to death. It was six weeks before the lines were repaired.
This nightmare, went on…until the following Saturday. Nine days of no food and water to speak of and to be honest after the third day we weren’t even hungry. All we could think about was how cold it was. It was according to our outdoor thermometer, 10 below zero. I have no idea what it was inside. After the first tree fell on the house the cold came in even more…and we stopped trying to putter around to keep warm. We were terrified of the next moment, not knowing what crisis would ensue.
We both put on everything we had in our closets or used it to cover ourselves or our animals. I wore three shirts, a pair of long johns, six pairs of sock, knee boots, four sweaters, two jackets, a coat, a muffler, hat, gloves and a fur muff for my hands. and I was covered in four quilts and two blankets. It was cold no matter what we used. Our body heat just wasn’t enough to get us warmed up. What little we had we used to keep the animal warm. I can’t tell you how it broke my heart to see the fear in their eyes. Or hear their pitiful mewling and whiny barking. They didn’t understand what was going on. I tried to be brave and calm for all of them and my Mom. But they knew that something terrible was happening and they had never been cold or hungry like that before.
I don’t remember sleeping but a few moments at a time in the dark. Every time I heard the crack of a tree falling I didn’t know if it would kill us. Every time one hit the house it barely missed us. We didn’t know where to go in the house to be safe. There was no where to feel safe. That’s the most awful feeling imaginable. To wonder if you’ll die before the sun comes up.
Someone had went off and left their little dog, a three year old Shitsu, to fend for himself in that weather. I let him in through a crack in the door and he and the cats fought so I had to lock him in a room by himself. But he like we survived. He is still with us …Our dog now…His owners house was destroyed and they never came back to look for him that we are aware of.
On the day we were freed. I woke up hallucinating. I felt very floaty and far away. No longer afraid. We were both talking out of our heads. I realize that now from the things we saw and were talking about. I couldn’t feet my toes anymore and I knew that I had hypothermia because I was too sleepy and warm. The side of my face was like a burn. It hurt when I touched it. I knew if I didn’t do something that day, there would be no tomorrow.
So I mustered up strength from God only knows where, determined to climb out, from the rubble of the front porch, uncaring if the tree that was collapsed on top of it fell even further. I pretty much had no options left. Somehow I managed to get the door open and walk out on the crushed porch. Tree branches fell, ice laden popping like grenades. A few slivers of ice from that height falling are like knives and I was the recipient of their attack as I ran towards what was left of our Van.
It was amazingly unscathed. But a pine had fallen in front and behind it. There was no way to move it. Then in the frozen silence…there was another sound…Men shouting, a chainsaw. A truck roaring to life and the sound of chains clanging together. Someone was down the road. I couldn’t feel my toes but I ran…slipping and sliding, thrilled to hear the sound of human voices.
There was seven men and a woman, cutting trees in to pieces and moving the chunks with chains and trucks to clear the roads. They were checking on their neighbors and trying to make it to their home to see if anything was left. They didn’t know me but when I came climbing up the road, it was an icy sheet and there was no traction on the heels of my boots, one of them ran to pull me up and they all hugged me. I didn’t even have enough liquid in my body to cry. But I was…inside. I was so happy. They just held me…perhaps seeing in my eyes what I had been through. Later, I saw the rest of the mountain roads and homes, and I understood what they had witnessed. They didn’t expect to even find anyone alive. It was like a war zone. So many trees down, on roads and homes, vehicles demolished. So many people that were trapped. They cut and moved the tree from behind the van. They helped us load up our animals and escorted us to the main road safely.
We lost everything.
I can’t tell you what is like when your my mothers age…or mine. When you barely even had enough to survive on to begin with…
There was nothing left by the time it all thawed and we could go back to salvage our personal belongings. The water damage was the final blow. But we are alive…so are our babies…and a new chapter of our lives began then. The rest is a longer story of how we survived with nothing. Nowhere to go and no one to help. No income. One that perhaps I can write someday too.
This I know…