A new day and “bad” takes on new meaning. An old generator that had never before seen service has been coaxed to life. One elevator is running — sometimes.
Now it begins. The inside. The ceiling in the lobby leaking water in volumes. The ladies workout room has been made unsafe from sewage. Main floor hallways have water on the floors. Elevators have water dripping into them. The library seems OK. The men’s exercise room seems OK. Somehow water got on the floor of the manager’s office. The first floor rental unit seems all right. Time to check the top floor public areas.
Now “bad” expands its tentacles. The people. Joining together to see the damage to their homes. Finding their homes “blown out.” Blown out — what does that mean? Their sliding glass doors and some of the building siding blown off, out, in — it doesn’t matter the direction — their possessions gone — blown away — out into the air, into a pool, onto a roof, on the beach, in the driveway.
Ceilings have caved in and collapsed on the floor or flown out the window or are just hanging down. Chandeliers blown in circles, carving notches in the ceiling. Drawers filled with water and then blown shut. Linens sucked out of drawers and gone to — where? No one knows.
Family pictures are found on the beach and brought into the lobby by some stranger thinking that maybe the people in the pictures live here. Those from far away call, hoping someone can look at their home and tell them they escaped the storm’s wrath. We looked. They didn’t.
Carpeting is soaked, curtains are sucked into the windows, paint has literally peeled off walls, whole walls are gone, mirrors have been plucked off of walls, shattered and scattered to the winds — to the beach? Who knows? Ugliness is all around us.
The meetings begin for the buildings’ repair. 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., daily. First step, call the insurance company. They can’t get here right away, they are very busy. We have a construction company already on-site doing concrete restoration work. They help.
They immediately began cleaning up debris the day after the storm and they still haven’t stopped. They help big time. We had no gasoline, no water and no food that wasn’t canned. Couldn’t get any of these in our area. Food stores lost all their fresh and frozen foods and were so damaged, they could not open.
Not to mention that there is still no electricity. The construction company brought in water, gasoline for the generator, repair parts, cheeseburgers all the way from Ft. Lauderdale. For us. The residents and employees. The next day we’re in the same mess. The construction company brought in huge grills and meat and had their family members cooking.
Next order of business is pulling up all carpeting in the public areas of the building. They are all soaked and must be thrown out.
We’ve all seen this response on TV. Mud slides, tornados, fires — people losing their homes and crying in front of the camera. We used to sit there thinking, “But you and your family are safe. Those are just material things. Why are you so deeply touched by this?”
We’re learning. We’re learning what “home” is. It’s a cocoon where you feel safe. Safe from danger, safe from prying eyes, safe from eaves dropping. Safe. Where you surround yourself with the chairs that fit you and a place to put your feet up comfortably. Where your sound system is right for your ears and the TV is right for your eyes. Where you have pieces just for their beauty and others for their memories or inspiration. Where the colors are just right for you and the fabrics are the ones that work for you.
Each of us creates in our surroundings what feeds our spirit and gives us comfort and peace. And now, we have to tell our neighbors that their home no longer exists as they left it. In many, too many cases, it is all gone.
Did I mention “lock-down?” No? Well, we lived that, too. Not in jail exactly, but in our condo. There is only one occasionally running elevator via an elderly generator. Lock-down was nightly at 6:30 p.m. We went to our unit and stayed there until 7 a.m. the following morning. We had to save and nurse the generator. No workers at night, no lights, just us with candles in lock-down. “And not a creature was stirring ”
To be continued …
Sara Smith’s daughter, Rachael Barlow, lives in Groton.