Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Family as Shelter
First I want to thank those who expressed their concern and those who helped us during what could have been an unbearable weekend. The storms that surprised St. Louis on Wednesday night knocked out our power just as we were coming in from a swim with Jenny and Todd. Winds knocked over a small tree and my basketball hoop, but aside from tree limbs strewn across the yard we were lucky in that we had little damage. Todd and I heard a tree splintering nearby. It wasn't until the next morning that we saw the damage done all around our neighborhood -- the splintered tree we heard lay against the house across the street from us. As I had no available radio I had to call my dad on my cell phone to get reports of just what was going on. For the first day, so many reports were coming in to news stations it was hard to filter what was exaggerated. Some at the ballpark, which was hard hit, told of the sky rotating above them. There were reports of a tornado in nearby Jefferson Barracks, but I haven't read any confirmation of that. At one point, 1.2 million people in St. Louis were without power.
Susan's mother and Megan's grandmother Lucille Brazier passed away the day before the storm. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for several years. Megan said that she seemed happiest when Megan brought one of the babies, as Nana didn't need to worry about remembering anyone's name or where she was. She could just focus all her attention on the baby. It was Tom Burns who a decade ago fell for this classy lady when she came to visit Megan and ended up ironing all of Tom's sheets. Megan's brother Jim booked a flight to come into St. Louis for the Friday funeral. But as of Thursday morning, none of us had a place to stay.
Added to the blackout was the heat -- Thursday was to be the hottest day of the year. Thank you to Jen Enright for helping me with the girls on Thursday morning as Tony and I tried to figure out what we were going to do. Luckily, Tony found hotel rooms for us, and just as I was packing the girls for several days in a hotel, Tony and Susan's power came back on. In the first 12 hours after the storm, Ameren UE, our electric company, somehow cut the number of those without power in half.
And so, like a holiday weekend, Tony and Susan's house was packed with their kids and grandkids. And a time that could have been very tough for Susan was a time of family togetherness. Jen Enright watched the girls on Friday as we celebrated Nana's funeral mass in a church without power and drove to the cemetery through a storm that knocked power out to another 200 thousand. Jim's eulogy captured the mood of the weekend: upbeat, humorous, and with a touch of sadness that brings the importance of family back into focus.
Because there was so much around her to make her happy - from Jenny and Todd on the night of the storm to Nana, Papa, and Uncle Jim through the weekend - Clara never suspected anything was wrong. After the storms and heat, the weekend weather settled into a calm coolness. We spent the majority of our time on the deck, forgetting that we were refugees. Our power came back on sometime Saturday night / Sunday morning, and by Sunday night we were all back into our own beds after what could have been a rough few days. Turns out it was just the opposite.