[personal profile] wolfpangs
Tragedy is like a branding iron. Everyone who lives through it becomes a product of that tragedy. You realize you’re just a slab of meat. You might continue living your life in a fairly normal straight line, but that tragedy knows to whom you belong. You have its smoldering mark on your body.

At first the idea of grief counselors seemed absurd. "I was like, grief counselors? Really? But this is doing something to me." And that's it. It's difficult to put into words, but in the aftermath of the storm, you could feel it on you. Something had been done to you. And though I don't think of myself as seriously affected, there is a part of me that still becomes frantic when the power goes out. The anxiety is a rat racing up my nerves. It's part of the reason why it's taken me so long to write this, the followup to the storm. I don't like to think about it. I don't like to talk about it. I don't like to go back to it. But I will, just this once, and then it can't touch me again for a long time.



We spent 12 days without power. Even as our neighbors around us got power, we did not. Our neutral line was severed and that required a return trip from the electric coop that took 3 days of meaningless reassurances from the dispatcher to accomplish.

In the meantime, what is there to do? It is a strange thing to go from plugged in to tuned out. I could get occasional fixes from Twitter or wherever on my phone, but I couldn't sustain that for very long. It infuriated me to read tweets or status updates about benign nonsense while I was living in the city of ruins. Like the subjects of the post-9/11 Onion article, I longed to care about stupid bullshit again.

It wasn't all unchecked boredom and seething rage, though. There were a lot of good people who came here to help, whether it was to care for animals or help clean up or feed us. I had a few hot meals here and there, but mostly I ate from cans like a hobo.

During the nighttime, the darkness was absolute and it had shape and weight. Dead quiet. Scores of police and military personnel came from around the state to help keep the dusk-to-dawn curfew. When we heard about the death of bin Laden, it was over my car radio. A police officer, attracted by the solar light I was holding as I fiddled with the radio, stopped to see if something was wrong. The rest of the time, I read a lot. [And here I would like to give a special endorsement to Barnes & Noble for the Lyra Light they made for the Nook. Not only was it invaluable for reading in the dark, but I also frequently used it as a flashlight during the storm days.] I tried to sleep a lot, with a faint hope that I could sleep through it all, but with no work and no school, there was only so much sleeping I could do.

Occasionally we got out to places with power. That's when I really felt like a hobo. I felt constantly dirty. I could and did take showers at school and once at the Armory here, but there's nothing like having your own shower. [I took one shower at home during the duration. It was...brisk.] When the neighboring town regained power, I went there to get a pedicure and practically wept apologies at the state of my legs and feet. "It's okay," the man told me. "It's okay."

During the day, we drove around and surveyed the damage. I'm not sure that pictures can ever really do it justice but I needed to take them. I didn't understand why people who don't live here needed to take them, though, and I stared down a van with Florida plates as they slow-cruised my street. The passenger, who had gotten out to take photos, had the decency, at least, to look sheepish as she returned to the vehicle. You're not a journalist--this is no greater good thing here. These pictures are for what? Your Facebook albums? Fuck you. No one needs your devoid of context disaster porn. Instead, here are the things I saw. All of these were shot with my camera phone, usually when I was a passenger (and occasionally, driver) of a moving vehicle. And these are not even the worst things I saw. There was, for example, the house cleaved in half, the furnished rooms now visible, as if you were looking into a life-size dollhouse.

This is just a piece of what all the cars in the courthouse parking lot looked like.


And this is the courthouse itself.


Here is the church


And here is the steeple.


More dispatches from the city of ruins:




One of the hardest things to get used to, in the aftermath, is the changed landscape. Basically, to the loss of all those trees.


:( Hieronymus Bosch has since been righted and his tail was reattached.


Every time I see this--and they are still like this, five months later--I think of Wilfred Owen: Bent double, like old beggars under sacks...




This is on a fallen tree, about ten feet off the ground.


And now, like I said, it still puts me on edge. I sleep with my fan on so that when I wake, I can be reassured by the clicking of the blades that the power is on. I happened to drive past the tornado siren last week when they were testing it (they test them on the first Wednesday of every month) and it made me want to scream. This summer I went to see Super 8 and at one point, a character complained about being without power for 2 days. "Try 2 weeks!" an audience member hollered. [I mentioned this on Twitter, where it was quite popular in Missouri.] I can laugh about it, but I still don't like to talk about it. It makes me feel too tender. But things got better obviously and I'm pleased to report that I now care about stupid bullshit again.

So can we talk about that, instead?
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wolfpangs

October 2012

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