By Ron Gawel
Niagara Gazette — There was no question about it in anyone’s mind. Something was coming! You could see it! You could feel it! You could even taste it! As Friday night ushered itself into existence and an unmistakable mood of some impending doom, dread, maybe even despair came into being in our wild and vivid imaginations; as the darkness slyly crept in and hovered over us we became shrouded in a web of mystery and wonder of just what was to be.
What is it about the dark, slowly, ominously lurking in the skies that brings thoughts or images of evil and fear to the hearts of men and that a dose of unpleasantness might be inevitably approaching the current calm in our lives. When I am able to foresee “doom”, I always conjure up in my mind the thought of Ray Bradbury’s eerie title of “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and a dastardliness is already on its way in and that natural urge to want to somewhere “take a run for it” from what might well be something very bad and definitely not at all of the norm, if that can even really be defined.
I think too of how on Good Friday darkness covered the land as Jesus Christ died his horrible and so very painful death on the cross to forgive us our sins, as Christian doctrine states. Perhaps that event is the epitome of associating the darkness with something so very wrong! The true indicator that the unexpectedness of “dark as night” brings with it the foreboding of a great warning we need to be alerted to and be forced to face at any cost.
And so at last it came — the big one, unlike a thunderstorm we’d not seen for a very long time, perhaps ever before. It started slow with only a quick drizzle coming down, but as the blackness covered the sky, along with nightfall hovering in the shadows, our city shrouded in the unknown of just how bad it was to be, we watched and we witnessed with almost childlike fascination as the rains turned into massive out of control torrents, pelting down sadistically on everything and anything in its unfortunate path.
Niagara is not well noted for experiencing catastrophic events as is so much of other not so lucky parts of the country. Hurricanes and tornadoes have been probably non existent. Earthquakes. Forest fires. Not at all common. Bad winter storms? Well, there was that rather infamous Blizzard of ’77! Somewhat noteworthy. But for the most part, we are very fortunate and have for far too long been able to be grateful not having had to endure many disastrous aftermaths of nature on the rampage. Our luck ran out, coming to a rather watery grinding halt.
Few expected what came upon us, a cleansing of sorts — literally, of what would turn out to be long overdue thorough cleaning of interior properties for many, while for others it was a nightmarish turn of events which voraciously came into our private domain, the safe and sacred ground we worship called our homes which were rudely invaded by those unfriendly-like waters of the sewer world, rushing into the very bowels of our abodes, soaking, stinking everything in its foreseeable path of ruin. But it happened! And for some, with serious damage the bad dream isn’t over.
In some cases, precious items of great sentimental value came without much warning and there was little time available for salvaging that which really mattered to so many of us. Forgetting may come with time, but that Friday night Niagarians worked to the ultimate bone of exhaustion. For some, in the wee hours of the red sky at morning that was soon to strike upon a new day’s horizon, and with no rest for those truly weary souls who without even planning to became creatures of the night.
Basements flooded without any anticipation of doing so, some beyond belief; ruining the precious, the valuable, the good, the bad, perhaps the ugly, and the far too much not so precious—junk that stood in the murky, muddy rushing waters of its path. At the time it seemed like quite the disaster—and, in fact, was for too many who lost priceless not so well stored items from another era of their lives.
As for my wife and I, the storm may well have proved to be a great blessing from above. I’d been putting off doing a thorough cleaning of the cellar for longer than I care to remember. The “stuff” we’d accumulated was vastly getting out of control and to some we might be considered as close to “pack-ratting” it! God’s will, however, changed the course of things. Before the weekend of the storm was coming to a close, we had “washed our hands” of 86 percent of the mostly useless junk that had us enveloped in basement clutter FOR years.
I do feel a tremendous compassion for those who didn’t fare as well. And there were many. Judging from the trash-lined streets much was lost, but everything happens with justifiable cause for a reason — and justifiable junk finally was able to get tossed by even the most devoted of savers.
Sure we experienced those annoying inconveniences that always accompany a powerful event — power outages, damage to the exterior as well as interior of property, downed trees, and maybe some “on the edge” life incidents occurring. But we can at least say this lesson was nowhere near as drastic as the unmistakable huge loss of life and properties in other sections of the country. At least too, we know good neighbors all came together to be of assistance, perhaps comfort in those more cruel of situations. And it was a good feeling of being able to show support, give help and offer friendship.
Hopefully, we are able to with great fortune “go on” in the calm after the storm. It could all have been so much worse. Perhaps we will all appreciate what WE still have to treasure while many elsewhere already have lost so very much of their lives and loves.Ron Gawel is a Niagara Falls resident.