Flashback to Hugo

My characters for this year’s NaNoWriMo left for vacation on day 3 and I have no idea when they are coming back.  Last year my characters stayed with me the whole month – they may have slept late – but I had noted snippets of dialog and when I started writing that, they woke up and joined the party.  This year they just up and left.  I think they took a city break in Florence and will be returning with the night train but until then I have caught up on current events and reading about Sandy.

Growing up in the Midwest, I never really understood what the residents in the southeast faced when hurricane season rolled around, until I got the chance to experience a hurricane up close.  I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina when Hurricane Hugo blew through.  Not to be braggy but that was a category 5 and Sandy was only a category 2 hurricane so, just sayin’ my hurricane was bigger.

I was living in a big old house, on a big old lot, surrounded by big old trees.  This being the south, Spanish moss-covered all the trees.  Even though the house had no porch, I would still consider it a proper southern home because it had servant’s quarters.  That is where I was living, until an enormous moss-covered tree, fell on the roof, crushed my four-poster bed, and sent me running for the big house.

The rain came so quickly that there was surely water in the cellar, wouldn’t I be a dear and go down to shut off the power, the lady of the house asked.  I remember it like it was yesterday, going into the hall and opening the heavy door.  It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the darkness and then a few more for them to understand what they were seeing.  Black water was sloshing up against the steps and only the top two were visible, one wet mouse sat on the step and looked at me in surprise.  I slowly closed the door and knew it wouldn’t be long until water would cover the main floor of the grand house.

I went to the second floor and sat with the family in the day room.  We heard hundred-year-old trees crash against the house breaking the leaded glass windows and in the end, we all hid in the master suite’s spacious walk in closet.  All the people in the house, Mr. and Mrs., two children, two dogs, and me sat among the polished shoes and suits smelling the leather in Misters closet, cowering at every thunderous crash outside.  The power went out and we continued to sit until it was silent.  I could not tell you how many hours we waited but I do remember that I was able to stay in the charming attic bedroom until my living quarters were repaired.

After a few days of being pent up in the house, I went for a walk to see if our tree-covered lot was the exception.  It wasn’t.  It was impossible to find the road; everything was covered with trees, branches, and leaves not to mention the more worrying electrical poles and wires.  I climbed over tree trunks taller than cars and walked towards the Southpark Mall where I remembered civilization had been.  I wanted to see if nature had taken Charlotte back.

After many hours of climbing over and around things, I found a restaurant open with a surprising amount of people sitting outside drinking and eating.  The owner had set up a barbecue and they continued to run their business, cash only, without power, water, or even a cleared road.  I can’t remember if I ate, what I drank or if I even had money on me but I remember listening to the stories and telling mine.  I remember a woman with a kind face sitting with her guitar. She  told us that her chimney, that had always stood straight and proud on the north wall of her home, had blown clear off. Leaving her with a wonderful, albeit drafty, view.

We all sat for many hours and listened to her play and sing. She stopped every so often to let people tell their story or say what was on their mind.  Most of us just sat quietly absorbing the sadness around us.  A few years later at a music store in Minneapolis, I had asked if they had anything by a southern artist named Daryle Ryce and they did.  Carolina Blue was released less than a year after the storm.  She had played many of the songs at the restaurant that day and it was so comforting to hear them again. I would recommend, “Livin from day to day”.

So, even if your characters sneak away on vacation you can still find something to write about even if it doesn’t go towards your word count. I can truly say that you haven’t lived until you have survived a natural disaster.  Chins up, Sandy people, good things can come from this.  Some of you may be inspired to write songs and make an album. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

PS I googled the house to see if it was still standing and it recently for sale. Do you want to see the house that  survived Hurricane Hugo and provided shelter for me during the storm?

As far as I can tell I lived in what they now call “the Motorcourt”, although I am not 100 % certain since it was only one story then. We were sitting in the “his Boudoir” when a branch broke through the large window and fled to the “her boudoir” until a tree crashed into the wall, that is when we fled to the unphotographed man-closet. This house was so amazing.  There is no music with the video so just hum the theme song to Dynasty – that should put you in the proper mood. 

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