Monday, January 28, 2008

Ever felt overwhlemingly compelled to do something?

It was clear that we were not going back to our apartment for a while. We had only what we had with us, and luckily our car. Fortunately our car was parked many blocks from our apartment because of how difficult parking is to find in New York City,…so it had been safely out of harms way. My husband and I walked liked zombies, with our daughter in tow to our car. We stopped along the way to call my parents from a pay phone to let them know we were okay (not everyone had a cell phone in those days…we didn’t) We didn’t have much at the moment. We had each other, our car, the clothes we were wearing, a carriage with a plastic bubble, and enough supplies for two diaper changes.

We weren’t the only ones walking like zombies, everyone was. There was a deep state of shock that had set in around this downtown part of Manhattan. We got to our car. We got in, we positioned our daughter safely in her baby car seat, we turned on the ignition, we headed towards my parents on Long Island, about 30 minutes away. We didn’t say much, but we were both thinking…we were thinking among other things, that we had miraculously decided to take a walk right before the blast hit the building, it was the best decision of our lives, but strangely one I had felt driven to make…this was not the first time I had felt overwhelming compelled to make a certain decision, and it wouldn’t be the last. Is this divine intervention? ESP? Good timing? Luck? It’s something though. It may have saved our lives.

We arrived at my parents, they were relieved to see us, the TV was on…the news of our building was on every channel. There they were, the newscasters we saw every night; standing in front of our building…like it was a celebrity…and it was. It was getting dark, and the steam was still thundering out of the pavement, it was being reported that three people had been killed, many injured, cherry pickers had managed earlier to extract the rest of our neighbors from the building. The damage was complete. We could see that all the windows in the building had been blown out, there was mud all over the building, curtains were blowing out of the open holes that used to have windows, the rest of the neighborhood was empty…no hustling, no bustling, no New York City nightlife, no nothing…except Vesuvius, and emergency vehicles…and our cats and our turtle were still inside the building…we hoped they were alive.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

...And Then What Happened

We walked leisurely about six blocks or so, and heard a thunderous sound…we weren’t overly alarmed. We had both grown up in New York…loud sounds happen. We looked at each other, and said “what’s that?” My first reaction was that it was the subway, but didn’t really think first to know that the subway was not all that close to where we were standing. Then almost immediately, our neighborhood exploded with all kinds of sounds…ambulances, police sirens, fire engines, people running this way and that. Now we were worried. Was this a nuclear disaster? A bomb? Terrorist attack wasn’t really in our minds…it was 1989. We started to run back towards our apartment. People were hanging out of their windows, off of their balconies, from the top of their roof…and as we got closer to our building, about four blocks away…we saw what everyone was looking at…it was a 100 foot high wall of smoke (steam actually), and could it be true… it was coming from our building. Was it near, or was it in? We could not tell for sure. The streets were packed; no cars were allowed to enter because they had closed off the street in a 10 block radius, except for emergency vehicles.

We walked to as far as we were able…about two blocks from our building. My husband said “stay here, don’t move or I’ll never find you again (the streets were stuffed with people), I’ll go see what’s going on”. We stayed put, me and my baby in her plastic bubble, waiting for news. Was our building on fire? Was anyone hurt? Were our cats and our turtle going to be okay? One minute you’re fine…just taking a walk, the next you’re not so fine.

After about fifteen or twenty extremely long minutes, my husband found us in the crowd. He said “it’s our building, they won’t let anyone within a block of it, people are stuck inside, I heard that a couple of people had been killed”. “But what is it?” I wanted to know from someone who had had more of a birdseye view than myself. “They had been repairing a steampipe on our block, (they were always repairing a steampipe on our block). The electric company was constantly digging and paving, and digging and paving our block. On this day, they had dug, gone down inside the hole, about five feet or so (nothing new here), they’re mission obviously was to repair something. We learned afterward, that there were two men in the hole, one man released the gasket on the pipe too quickly, and the steam, which was 400 degrees hot exploded out of the pipe with a vengeance. The two men were blown out of the hole (both were killed), along with an entire blocks worth of asphalt. The steam could not be shut off for hours, it looked like some modern-day Vesuvius.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Luck is all in how you look at it

I am 48 years old and I’ve often found myself looking back over my life. We all have done that, right? I look with hindsight (being the best sight-or so I’ve heard), to see how the pieces connect, to see what I’ve learned and how I can make better decisions in the future. When I do this, I often think of luck. We all think of luck as being a player in our lives, some may see it as a bit player, while others see it more as a principle character. We speak of luck as a force that seems to operate for good or ill in our lives. We hear things like “ the flu is going around, with my luck, I’ll probably be the one to get sick”, or on the more positive side, “she lucked into a great job”.

When I look at my life, I see my luck as more of a combination. I see myself as being lucky in unlucky circumstances. Did you ever feel that way? Luck may just be in how we choose to look at things. Are we unlucky for getting sick, or lucky for getting better? We may be both, but certain ones of us, choose to look at it either as good or bad. Better to choose to look at the good luck side, right?

I was 31 years old, it was August, our daughter was 4 months old, just two days previous, she had been given a clean bill of health. She had been born with a dislocated hip (not a serious condition if found early enough). It required that she be put in a soft cast for four months from the time she was born; this contraption besides making it difficult to bathe, dress and diaper her, made her look a bit like a trussed turkey, her legs were set in a bent position, spread far apart. So we were happy, and relieved to finally be able to release the ties that bound if you will. On that Sunday afterward it was abysmal out, it was rainy, gray, and I felt like we had been pent up all day. I kept saying to my husband “let’s just go out” “let’s get out of the apartment”, we’ve been stuck inside all day. He, not feeling the same claustrophobia as I, said “it’s raining, we can’t take the baby out in the rain”. I was determined though, “let’s just put the plastic cover over her, and go.” This plastic cover is something that nearly only first time parents engage in…my next child never saw a plastic cover. My husband was persuaded, but in all fairness, he didn’t stand a chance. I had my mind made up. Off we went into the drizzle.