It's been quite an interesting couple of weeks here on the East Coast. First, we had an earthquake, which by West Coast standards, wasn't a big deal - just a "little" 5.9 quake. But as my California-born-and-raised mother pointed out, people don't grow up preparing themselves for earthquakes on the East Coast. Buildings aren't constructed with large-scale earthquakes in mind, so property damage is worse in "little" quakes back east than it is in the west, and with 100 years or so between shake-ups, people here have never gotten into the habit of expecting regular quakes. So when this one hit, damage was done, people were scared, and it made big news.
Then, coming right in on the heels of the earthquake, we had Hurricane Irene barrelling up the East Coast, leaving all kinds of destruction in her wake. The damage wasn't as bad as we expected in my little corner of the world (we didn't even lose any tree branches in our yard, but our next-door neighbor's giant pine tree toppled over, pulling up the roots and all), but lots of people weren't as lucky as me.
Unlike the earthquake, we all saw the hurricane coming. We had time to prepare as best we could. All the hardware stores sold out of generators and back-up batteries for sump pumps, some grocery store shelves emptied rapidly, and everyone checked to make sure they knew where the fresh batteries were for the flashlights. We also had plenty of time to play the "what if?" game. "What if we lose power and it's gone for days?" "What if that big tree in the back yard comes down in the storm?" "What if the roof blows off my house?" "What if my basement floods?" "What if my patio furniture blows away?" "What if we have a medical emergency during the storm and no one can get to us in time?" "What if??"
In a way, this game of "what if?" is a good thing, as long as we do something about preparing for those worst-case scenarios. A little bit of preparation goes a long way toward eliminating fear. I talked to several friends in the days leading up to the hurricane, and in many cases the story was the same: "We've pulled everything that could blow away inside, we've stocked up on flashlights and fresh batteries, we filled our freezer with bags of ice in case we lose power. We're ready for whatever comes."
I saw people on facebook and twitter sharing tips and reminders with each other on how to prepare themselves for the storm, getting ready to step in and help each other if the need arose. And although many of us were nervous, there wasn't an all-out panic as we prepared for the impending storm.
We were prepared, and some of us were extremely lucky. We didn't have as much damage as we could have. (If my neighbor's tree had fallen in a different direction, for instance, it could have come right through my bedroom window, instead of simply filling the empty driveway between our houses, but as it was, we had no damage to speak of.) Others weren't so lucky. My daughter's best friend's family was without power for 5 days, and they lost everything in their fridge and freezer, probably hundreds of dollars worth of food. My friend's sister, who just spent thousands of dollars on a sump pump that was supposed to keep running even if the power failed, discovered that it didn't work at all and had to spend an entire weekend frantically bailing water by hand. Down the street from my gym, I passed a house where a giant tree had fallen across the driveway, smashing a fairly-new-looking car. A friend told me about another friend of hers who experienced flooding so badly that her entire house had slid off the foundation. She lost everything.
Still, as this same friend pointed out, even those who lost a lot in the hurricane and its aftermath didn't lose as much as it might appear. Her friend that lost her house and all her possessions? Didn't lose her family. They escaped the flood by riding it out in the treehouse her husband had built for their children until rescue crews arrived to help them. No one was injured. And that was so much more important than the stuff they lost. My daughter's best friend's mother, when she realized that they were going to lose all the food from their freezer, fired up the grill and invited all the neighbors over for a massive barbeque. Yes, they lost their food storage, but they gained a closeness with their neighborhood that they didn't have before. So it wasn't the tragedy it could have been.
The damage from Hurricane Irene was extensive, and we're still working to put things right again. It will probably be a long while before things are back to "normal" again. As I've sat here typing this, our power has flickered on and off several times, and I expect to see it happen again and again as the power company frantically works to restore electricity to everyone still without it. Some roads are still closed as they work to remove fallen trees and other debris. 13 schools in our district didn't open last week as planned, because they still have no power in the buildings...
We have a ways to go before we get back to pre-hurricane status. But we were prepared. We knew this one was coming, so we took steps to get ready for the rebuilding before the damage even happened. The Lord said that "if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear," and He's right.