This past June, our area was hit with a storm that has been named "Derecho 2012." It was a horrible early summer storm that, as many of you know, converged on our region from what seemed to be out of nowhere (or at least, no one expected it to be as awful as it was), comprised of lots of weather factors that rarely find themselves together at the same time, in the same place. It was a sort of "Perfect Storm," if you will.
This is a radar image of the storm - we were in the bulls-eye...
For our family, this meant quite a bit of devastation. We went from a leisurely evening at the pool with friends on a Friday to running to the car as the winds and lightning picked up. We arrived home and did little things to prepare for what seemed to be a typical summer storm - bringing in light chairs from the front porch, taking down our patio umbrella, etc. We got the girls settled into their beds, hoping that they would fall soundly asleep after exhausting themselves at the pool for several hours that evening, before the storm hit.
My husband and I joked about sitting out front to watch the storm come in - I am absolutely fascinated by weather and truly love a good summer storm, but thought better of it and started to get settled in ourselves. We gathered our flash lights - just in case, and were planning to ride it out in our bedroom, watching television.
The wind picked up. It sounded like a freight train whistling though. Outside our windows, we saw the outlines of trees bending sideways through the frequent lightning. Normally, I'm not particularly phased by this kind of thing, but even I started to get nervous. I could hear the girls still stirring in their bedrooms.
Then, the power went out. That jolted both girls out of their beds, and we quickly flipped on our flash lights and gathered them in the hallway upstairs. We decided that it would be best for us to be downstairs, since I am in a wheelchair and getting our generator up and running for my elevator wasn't really an option until the storm passed. My husband and I were trying to act nonchalant about everything, so as not to worry the girls more than we needed to.
Everyone was gathered at the top of our staircase and was beginning to make our way downstairs when we heard a loud crack, a thud, and our whole house shifted. We didn't know what had happened, but my husband and I looked at each other and just knew. We needed to get to our basement, and FAST.
We basically sprinted downstairs. The girls ran ahead of us, following our instructions to the letter (something that, at 6 and 3 1/2 years old, they rarely do). My husband swiftly scooped me up out of my chair and we ran to join the girls downstairs.
We turned on a movie on my computer for the girls. Luckly, the sounds of the storm were muffled downstairs, and our small windows didn't allow us a view of all the lightning. They hunkered down and were quickly distracted by the show - I have never been so thankful in my life that they are little Disney movie junkies!
When things eventually quieted down to downpour, my husband grabbed my chair from upstairs and brought it to the foyer, and then carried me upstairs to meet it. When we opened the front door to survey the situation, we gasped. There was a huge tree covering our front walkway. As it had fallen from the direction of our garage, we then went to the garage and opened the door. Our car was crushed. The tree had hit one of daughter's room in two places.
This is the same daughter who was recently diagnosed with mild anxiety.
She had been less than a minute from being in there when it fell.
Our house, post storm and pre-clean-up
Our daughter's room, hit through two dormer windows
Our car, which broke the tree's fall and likely saved us from a lot more damage
The hole in our daughter's roof - what kid wouldn't be a little freaked out by that? ;)
The girls, snuggled together and sleeping in our basement on the Aerobed
The next days, weeks, and months have been spent with putting our house back together. Our power was out for seven days. Her room had a hole in it, covered by a tarp, until 3 weeks ago. With large branches everywhere, our back yard, including the girls' swing set and play house, sustained significant damage. We had a second flood that came into our other daughter's room through an undiscovered vulnerable area on our roof during another storm that followed a couple weeks after Derecho, which flooded our dining room. As it often goes with insurance companies, it took our family months to complete our repairs, and we still wait for the final sign-off on everything so that we can be reimbursed.
I write this not because I am looking for sympathy. This whole situation sucked, to be certain, but it happens to people in every corner of the world, every day. I write this because of my daughter. What was "mild anxiety" for her has developed into something that resembles a real phobia of weather that she has been dealing with all summer. This storm, like it or not, became an unavoidable daily conversation and experience for all of us. That, combined with the long wait to have things repaired, has taken its toll.
For her, every cloud, every breeze, seems like it's going to be Derecho all over again. She worries every day about what the weather will be like. We jump from A to Mach-2 at the sight of a rain cloud, and discussion about tornadoes and trees falling are as normal a conversation around our house these days as "What would you like for breakfast?"
It is intensely heartbreaking for us as parents, as well as incredibly frustrating. What you say in these discussions can just as easily be what you absolutely, under all circumstances, shouldn't. What you don't say is actually what you should. It's confusing and has required us to really think before we speak. She relies on us to be honest, but not too honest. It is beyond tricky.
We are trying so hard to help her with this. We are talking to and working with professionals. We are reading books like this, and this. We are working with her to expose her gradually to that which frightens her. Her psychologist thinks it's a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that, if we address it, she will overcome (or at the very least, learn to manage very effectively). It's not a true "phobia" yet, which we are trying to avoid. Hopefully, all this will help.
The reason I was inspired to write this evening, however, is because our area is now keeping a watchful eye on Hurricane Sandy. It is sounding more and more likely that something significant will happen here, but even if it doesn't, I worry for my daughter. She is a smart girl who pays close attention to that which worries her, and even a casual conversation in the lunch room between some other grade-school kids will truly stress her out.
Our daughter as her usual happy-go-lucky self, playing Zimmbos with Mommy
the morning before the storm hit...
Maybe (HOPEFULLY), Sandy will head elsewhere. But my husband and I are quietly getting ready, just in case. We know that our "storm prep" goes far beyond gathering batteries and canned goods. Helping our daughters through whatever might come is what's on our family's radar. We had a conversation this evening about filling up gas cans for the generator, inventorying rain coats, getting the movies ready for the basement where, if any storm decides to make its way here, we are sure at least one of our daughters will be wanting to hole herself up until it passes. Lots of cuddles and reassurance will be readily available, too.
She is such an amazing kid (I know I'm biased, but both of our girls are!). She works and fights so hard to be who she is, and deserves to be cut just a small break...
I feel like the big exam is coming up and we haven't had time to properly study for it - or even read the Cliff's Notes - before D-Day. I would do literally anything to keep her from experiencing this fear before we have helped her learn more coping skills to manage it.
Apparently, I have a lot of worries these days, too. But I can't help it - I'm a mom. And that's why I write tonight.