Tuesday, 13 September 2011

When disaster strikes

I guess you might have been wondering where I've been.

The answer is that since my last blog post, our lives have been turned upside down, then put back together again.

Just over two weeks ago, during Hurricane Irene, an enormous tree fell on our house. We were miraculously away, far away in Canada, so no-one was at home. My neighbour emailed me immediately, so we knew what was happening, but such chaos was reigning in our town that there was no way we could return straight away. At first we thought the damage might be minor. But then more emails came: the police, fire department, everyone and his wife had been at our house. The roof was smashed in and the whole house was damaged. My landlady was hysterical. The fire department roped off the whole house and would not let anyone in. They said it would be condemned. It was like, said our neighbours, Hollywood in our street.

Far away in Montreal, we were seriously freaking out. The worst case scenario was that we would lose all our belongings to either wreckage or rain damage. Although the tree had crashed into the spare room, the room in which we luckily had hardly any stuff, we had no idea what water damage or rubble was below. No-one was allowed in so no-one could tell us.

As the week went on, we stayed away. Well what was the point in coming back when there was nowhere to come back to? Half the town still didn't have power. While the boys were still enjoying our holiday in Vermont, The Doctor and I were frantically on the phone the whole time, unable to sleep or eat, trying to contact insurance companies and the like. Meanwhile a structural engineer, our landlady and various brave souls went in and grabbed our photos, pictures and precious things - despite being told that the whole house was unstable.

Meanwhile my network of friends in Long Island came through. Someone set up a gift card fund. People offered to lend us furniture. People emailed me the names of realtors and someone told me about a house newly available to rent on their street. It was near our old house, on the same school bus route, and I knew several people who lived in the street. I looked online, contacted the realtor and made an appointment to see it the minute we got back.

I am now sitting in that house. We saw it just over a week ago, and immediately made an offer and signed a lease.

On our return, we spent a week living with our wonderful neighbours, looking helplessly at our old house next door. The tree had to removed before we could go in; there were delays with this due to the power company being too busy to remove cables, and then three days of rain. The town Fire Marshal became my new best friend, stopping in for cups of coffee every day. While this was all going on, the boys started school. Littleboy 2 had his first day of big school, going off on the bus. It went by in a blur.

On Friday last week they removed the tree. That in itself was dramatic - huge chunks of majestic oak being lifted from the roof with a crane. Then, finally, they said we could go in.

We spent Friday night and Saturday removing our things from the house. Amazingly, we lost much less than we feared. The boys' playroom was completely obliterated, but it turned out that half their toys were scattered throughout the rest of the house anyway (good thing they are so bad at clearing up). There was water damage to books, a linen cupboard, a few items of clothing and a few other items - all of which are replaceable. Evertyhing else was unscathed - including an electric piano that had been found sitting on a damp floor, and my laptop, which so far seems to work fine.

We moved into the new house and here I sit. It's actually a much nicer house - bigger, almost too smartly decorated for us, and with a beautiful view of the harbour. But I am mourning the old house - we had such a good two years there, and it is filled with memories. Going round it, it was hard to believe we wouldn't be living there again. I think when you move, you usually have time to mentally prepare yourself; we didn't. It almost feels like someone has died.

But I realise we were incredibly lucky. Lucky to be away when it happened - although I don't think we would have been killed, as the tree fell on a room where no-one slept, it would have been incredibly traumatic. Lucky that more of our things weren't damaged; a fire would have been far worse. Lucky to have good, kind friends and neighbours, who helped us out, helped us move house, cooked us dinner and supplied much-needed wine.

And now, life can start again.

26 comments:

TheMadHouse said...

OMG, I really do not know what to say. I thought our snow in the conservatory was bad over Christmas, but that is, well words fail me. I am so glad that no one was hurt and that you are all OK

Bush Mummy said...

Good God you poor loves.. What a total nightmare. Are you alright? There's a weird serendipity when things like that happen.. and you can't help asking yourself 'What if?'.. but at least you, your husband and the boys are safe and no one was hurt.

I hope you settle in your new place soon.

Thinking of you in W12.

BM x

Rhiannon said...

So glad you and the family are okay. Hope you settle in the new house and catch your breath. Doesn't sound like the hols could be described as relaxing though!

Potty Mummy said...

As Rhiannon said - don't you need a holiday to recover from your holiday? Thinking of you... PMx

Expat mum said...

I told you it would be good blog fodder. Seriously though, what a feckin nightmare. Having seen all that people have had to endure though, what a huge relief that it wasn't much worse. Hope you continue to settle in well, and love your new views. Very jealous!

Kit said...

What a story! But how wonderful that everyone came together and got you all sorted out with a new house so quickly... and that you were away when it happened. Was your neighborhood not evacuated? Another blog friend on Long Island had to leave home for several days and luckily came back to find it all unscathed.

Home Office Mum said...

wow! What a nightmare. I thought our house getting flooded a few years back was bad but that sounds pretty horrendous. Glad you are all ok and that not too much was lost. And as Expat Mums says, great blog fodder!

Michelloui said...

Oh. My. God. That is an incredible story. Hey, move to the States and have the FULL, crazy weather experience!! How completely wonderful that you have so many kind connections. You must be very lovely... :)

Good luck with the recovery. x

Kelloggsville said...

Eeek. Well done for making it through. What a trauma but oh my, how much better than it might have been x

Conuly said...

I'm glad to hear you're all right :)

MsCaroline said...

Wow. I'm so sorry you have had to have this experience, but very relieved to hear that none were injured and nothing vital was destroyed. Nonetheless, I'm sure you're all still in a state of shock (well, at least the adults...kids seem to take things in stride so well.)When we lived in the Midwest and oldest son was about 3, a tornado hit our county and destroyed a number of houses in the neighborhood where his babysitter lived while DH and I were at work. Even though the house he was in escaped injury, all of us were deeply shaken by the 'near miss.'
Very pleased that you have such an outstanding and supportive community around you...restores my faith in human nature.
Glad you're all ok and hope things return very quickly to a new normal...

PantsWithNames said...

How scary - thank goodness you were away and noone was hurt. And how amazing that so many people have rallied round to help you.

But I know what you mean about when you move you have time to gear up for it, whereas if you are forced to move you feel, well, a bit bereft.

x

Nota Bene said...

Oh no. How lucky you were to have been away, to have such great support and to find somewhere new so quickly. Hope you're not too traumatised...I expect the boys will be re-telling the tale of how a tree fell on their home for many years to come. x

Muddling Along said...

I had no idea - what a nightmare

I'm happy its all worked out ok and that you are all safe

And congratulations on the new house (and the laptop surviving it all)

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Wow. Life is so strange sometimes how it works out. Dare I mention the word FATE? So glad you are OK. Your new house sounds gorgeous, but I imagine you do miss the old one as it was home for two years. There are two cliches that would suit this but totally contradict one another - it's only bricks and mortar, or an Englishman's home is his castle...Take care, hope the boys are adjusting to their new home and little boy is enjoying his first day at big school x

Circles in the Sand said...

So glad you ended up with a lovely new place- the view looks amazing! I hope you're recovering from the trauma and getting back to normality bit by bit. I definitely think you need another holiday! (it was probably a good thing you didn't come home to the uk this summer) And yes, in reply to Michelloui, nappy valley girl is very lovely and so it doesn't surprise me one bit that she has a wonderful network of friends in the US :-)

Mud said...

You poor poor things! So relieved no one was hurt and to hear the optimism in your writing. I hope the new house is even happier than the first.
xx

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Wow, am so glad you are all safe & sound. This reminded me of Iota writing abt the U.S's 'can do' attitude. sounds like that really kicked in wth people being so helpful, proactive, & rallying round & fixing the situ. Fantastic. Unexpected blessings often do come out of trying or difficult circumstances.

Iota said...

I think you really see Americans at their best in these situations. I love how the Fire Chief has become your best friend, and you had neighbours to stay with, and people bought you gift cards.

But wow, yes, what a trauma, and you're right, there will be grief associated with the house. It's like losing a friend.

Elaine said...

How awful for you all, but what good luck that you were away from the house at the time.

A Modern Mother said...

I am so glad you were not there when it happened. Wow. Iota is right, yanks aren't so bad when it comes to disaters.

geekymummy said...

Oh my, how terrifying. I'm so glad you are all OK.

Chris said...

That's absolutely terrifying.. I've seen so many people lose a lot because of natural disasters.. it's nice to know that people came through for you.

nappy valley girl said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. And yes, I do need another holiday! Luckily we already had a weekend with friends booked in Cape Cod next weekend, so something to look forward to.

Mwa said...

What a shocker! I'm so glad to read you already have a new house, and especially that you weren't at home when it happened. I hope you don't have too much trouble with the aftermath. x

Metropolitan Mum said...

OH MOY GOD!!! I am so sorry to hear this, what a nightmare, just catching up with your blog. Happy that you are fine and the boys are coping as well. Wow. A real shocker!