A severe thunderstorm tore through our city in the spring of 2022.
In our predominantly white suburban neighborhood, several trees were shattered by the vicious wind, including the Norway maple in our front yard. Half of the trunk split with a deafening crack, fell towards our house, was momentarily caught on the eavestrough, and then crashed to the ground just shy of our front porch.
We rushed to look out at our back yard. Shingles were flying from our roof. The trees were twisting and turning, but thankfully they stayed rooted as rain poured down and the wind howled amid thunderclaps and lightning.
Afterwards, our porch was a mess of branches, keys, and leaves from the massive trunk section that had come to rest on our front lawn, so much so that it was difficult to access our front door. Amazingly, there was almost no damage as it had missed the lawn lamppost, a decorative ceramic planter, and most importantly, the house proper by mere inches. A six-foot segment of our eavestrough was a bit battered, but that was the extent of it.
Many people on the street had suffered noticeable damage to their trees as well. Debris was everywhere.
Our neighbors were very kind throughout the days following the storm, as we had no electricity. Our adjacent neighbors, with whom we share a back fence, checked in with us in person and by text almost every day. During the unprecedented tornado outbreak in our area a few years ago, they made us supper several times using their camping stove and passed a carafe of coffee over the fence every morning. With their golden retriever in tow, they stopped by after the Sun went down to see how we were doing.
Our neighbor just across the street had had a generator installed in the aftermath of those very same tornado-induced power failures, so this time, she was thoroughly prepared. Without electricity, our neighborhood and subdivision felt as if it were in the primordial forests of Canada; it was real country dark. The humming generator across the street became a beacon of light and civilization, especially at night.
For five days in the mornings, our across-the-street neighbor hosted us for breakfast. We talked, charged our phones and tablets, and had delicious coffee along with others from our neighborhood who popped in. She even treated us to an excellent roast beef dinner, and the following night, other friends treated us to barbeque chicken and veggies.
Things were serious. We talked about what was happening — or what we thought might be happening — while listening to the radio. But it was also convivial and humorous as we talked about the uncanny nature of the situation. We jokingly agreed that Uber Eats deliveries might be delayed in our area, and that perhaps unwittingly we had stumbled upon the future of green housing: a tree trunk on the porch.
Our immediate neighbors helped cut back the mess of fallen branches that adorned the enormous downed trunk. All the while, their golden doodle supervised us excitedly.
It was difficult to navigate the branches that entangled the front porch as we went about cleaning up. Luckily, my brother-in-law arrived in his pickup truck, complete with attached trailer, as well as a chainsaw, his son, and his son’s friend. We had been wondering if the city would eventually come along to clear the trunk away and help clean up our property, or if we needed to hire a private contractor, but this was much faster.
My brother-in-law, who is a skilled contractor in his own right, seems to know how to deal with almost anything related to the outdoors and construction, and he cut up the fallen trunk section in short order. They loaded the newly-cut logs onto the flat-bed trailer, and even raked and swept our front porch and walkway.
Shortly thereafter we called an arborist who arrived in good time to assess our wounded tree. After cutting away some splintered bark and giving it a new, fresh start, he and his crew went on to help our neighbors. He didn’t charge us a penny.
Throughout the five-day power outage, we communicated with friends and family by text — after charging our tablets and phones at our lovely neighbor’s generator-powered house — and by way of our landline phone, which continued to operate throughout.
Although it was unsettling at times, because we’re so used to our modern comforts and technological devices, we never felt alone. Our cats were somewhat stressed, I have no doubt. They knew something was different, as they didn’t clamor to go outside as much, but even they handled things well and stayed close by.
While our situation was far less serious than what others experienced during and after the storm, we know that it could’ve been far worse. Others along the storm’s path had their properties catastrophically damaged, and in some cases even lost loved ones.
The modern world, despite its comforts, conveniences, technological devices, and the Internet’s interconnectivity, can be isolating. It is, however, very heartening that in times of need, white people have a near-innate sense of kindness, decency, and altruism. So many of our fellow citizens are highly skilled and don’t hesitate to help their neighbors, friends, and family when they need it most.
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