Today is a horribly difficult and sad day.
In our interconnected world, most of the connected know that the East Coast of North America was hit with varying degrees of intensity by Hurricane Irene this weekend, on the heels of shimmying through a major Earthquake from Toronto to the Carolina's earlier this week. A lot of natural disaster action for a coast that is set up to weather extreme temperature conditions... and that's about it.
Sure, California might have been less riled by an earthquake. But buildings in California are constructed with earthquakes in mind. Not so on the Eastern Seaboard. Sure, the Gulf Coast might have been braver in a Hurricane. But it was not the deep south that took the brunt of the storm yesterday and today. It was not New York City or Boston, either, a fact that major U.S. news media is clinging to. But the east did not escape the storm.
Those who I've had the pleasure of interacting with to date through The Saturn Return Project know that I left my life in New York City to launch this Project. But my youth was spent in Vermont. That's my home state. And today, not only my home state, but the very small community I grew up in (the greater Woodstock, Vermont area) took a devastating beating from Hurricane Irene.
I must say that I was among the "not us" club. It's an idyllic location in the middle of the green mountains of Vermont that seems protected from everything but snow, and my nomadic lifestyle makes it so that I don't feel intimately connected to the place I grew up, because I am constantly thousands of miles away from those memories.
Being that I travel 100% of the time without a home base, I have a very small amount of treasured belongings that I left in storage in Vermont. My family recently moved out of state, so the few things I chose to carry forth are my only physical tie to the state that raised me. Some day when I may again have a home base, I assumed, the photo albums, hard drives, journals, childhood boxes of letters, drawings, writing and Christmas cards from my 4th grade boyfriend would provide for heart string-tugging moments of reminiscence. And the odd mismatched collection of pots, pans and small furniture would get me started from square one, instead of zero. But for now, these things were literally too much baggage to carry.
Today, Irene relieved me of that baggage entirely, as flood waters across Vermont rose up to 21 feet above normal levels in some places. I still await word from across the country in Los Angeles if my belongings are swimming with the trout and propane tanks or if they survived (by nothing less than an act of divine intervention, if so). Though personally distressing, that is but a fraction of my grief. I feel sick to my stomach, in a numb shocked daze, and sad to the core of my soul as I watched the landscape of my home tear and splinter into pieces throughout the day.
I was not tuned in to CNN, however. Nor the Weather Channel or any major U.S. news media. My extended community congregated in the most obvious destination of our time: the virtual small town front porch that is Facebook, including a group (and to some extent, Twitter as well). Every photo posted and video shared overwhelmed me further, with another sweeping wave of sadness and shock as the imagery of devastation spread like wildfire across the news feeds of my village.
We all feel the same thing, and no matter how far we are flung around the world (and oddly, for such a small region, many people from Woodstock are world travelers), we could share in our grief, our sadness, our shock and disbelief. We could ask questions and get nearly-instant answers (not being there, for example, I asked if anyone nearby was able to comment on the property where my belongings are stored and those closest to the area immediately attempted to describe the situation and help me). We offered words of support to each other with every historic covered bridge that washed away, swallowed in the undertow of a raging, angry brown country river, and cried together with every small country road that instantly eroded and disintegrated in the waves. For the day, everyone that's ever lived in the Woodstock area gathered together to support each other and the town that supported our formative years.
And tonight the fervent pitch of online chatter dies down as the moon rises over Vermont. Emotionally exhausted, we all tune out and turn off the channels, logging off Facebook and closing the browser on Twitter. It's too much, or at least it is enough for one day, and as the Governor of Vermont tweeted to the constituents of his state, "... remain safe tonight! Tomorrow morning we will begin to recover."