O.T. in a way

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Musing. Having half my mind on preparing for Y2K and the other half launching a new career at fifty, left little room for empty nest syndrome, empty bed syndrome. Two years ago I made my lists, bought my seeds, began a program that would provide me with a year of provisions for four people and a few surprises. I made a Y2K Preparations calendar and stuck to it. Hoping for the best, but having too much information to feel easy about a smooth transition. It was a good project. It gave me a solid wall to lean on when I finished working at the end of the day. It comforted me to know I had an emotional direction in the empty hours once filled with the sounds of my son and the world he brought with him. It cluttered up the dining room table where my husband once sat and nursed a scotch and his secrets. Y2K preparations became a foster child, a new pet, a consumer of those shadows that appear far too dark once the sun sets. Its possible to fill your life so full you do not notice how myopic you can become.

This week I was supposed to work on the solar CB setup. It didnt happen. Hurricane Floyd blew into the Atlantic and distracted me. I found myself watching the Abacos. Eleven years ago I first kissed the man I fell in love with on Man-O-War. It was the beginning of an affair of the heart and a love affair with the islands and its people. I found the Abaco Community Message Board on the net and followed the apprehension of anticipation of that massive specter gathering speed and power. I watched the satellite maps in sheer wonder of a force of nature as terrible as it was beautiful.

As Floyd got closer to the Abacos, missives of God be with us, and Keep your head down, crowded the board. Humor surfaced and just as quickly vanished. Advice on how to prepare, what not to do, what to do, flew down the board. People who could afford it, left the islands. Others tried to leave the islands only to become trapped by travel foul-ups and worsening weather conditions. The ferries stopped, the airports closed, and ships were called back to port. The closer Floyd came, the more the Abaco Message Board sparked and whipped like a wild, high voltage cable set loose by something unexpected and ominous.

The rain came, the wind blew and died, blew and died, teasing and cruel. Power flickered as the wind gathered strength. Floyd, like some Stephen King demon, aimed its malicious eye on the Bahamas.

I found a live news show broadcasting from Palm Beach and ran it with Real Player as I kept track of the Abaco Board. The web master handed the board over to a remote location in Canada and picked up his ham to try to broadcast throughout the maelstrom. The gentleman manning the board for 36 straight hours, had lost his house on one of the Cays. But, no one knew that until days later. People hunkered down. The only phrase that properly describes the only thing they could do.

The first wave came with horrifying intensity. Power gone, phones gone. Valiant men and women, using any form of communication our technological age could provide, relayed the terror and unbelievable strength of the monster on top of them.

Floyd battered the Northern Bahamas for two hours. It contaminated the cisterns with sea water, it beached a tanker, it threw luxury vessels into houses. Winds of 180 mph were clocked. A 25 foot wall of water washed over the poorest of communities. Fuel tanks were flung out of the ocean, docks snapped, and yet, the board kept going.

Then Floyd dropped his eye on the Abacos. That sullen calm, that belly of the whale, sat heavy on the Cays. People ventured out, not fooled by the silence of the eye, only exhausted, understanding the back end of the demon was going to be far worse.

In the states, helmet-headed newscasters droned their warnings. The mass exodus began. A million, two million crowded the highways. The Bahamas are taking a beating, the newscasters occasionally mentioned. Disneyworld closed. On the Abaco Board, friends and families posted frantic messages.

Then, the eye moved on. Words are too inadequate to capture the unspeakable violence and savagery of the back end of the hurricane. The board was atrociously silent from the Cays, and alarmingly crowded by inquiries. It was in danger of crashing. It was the only central point of communication for the souls caught in the fury. It had to stay up.

My voice joined others, pleading for people to stop posting. Wait. Wait. I, who was safe, who had no father, mother, child, enduring the unendurable, called for patience. A kind of despairing patience mixed with hope and fear. I could feel it through the keyboard and on the monitor.

The first word. It was as though it was the miracle of the first word uttered, the first child born. They were still there. Little by little information came. A ham operator, a satellite phone, the first light from the first spark to become the first fire from a human hand.

Unbelievable destruction. Elbow Cay was now two islands. Homes taken into the sea. Roads gone, wooden structures fractured, the small islands scarred and decimated. No food, no water, no power, no phones. Floods, airports unusable, radio towers down, vessels sunk, beached, upended. The Cays defoliated, the mosquitos gearing up for a horrendous attack. There was only the board. A thin lifeline that hummed slices of good news over the next days. Still alive. Not seriously injured.

Then came the delicate, incredible ballet of human compassion. People with nothing to gain, giving. Strangers working without sleep to bring the first relief to the Abacos. Volunteers, organizers, just people, all linked by the Abaco Message Board. The occasional vulture wandered in to try to spill their venom, but they were flamed away, sent packing with their dubious karma. The Bahamian Government had to be coaxed to lift the 70% duty tax on fresh water entering the country. At first, turning away private aircraft filled with supplies for fear of unscrupulous drug smugglers. Faxes, e-mails, telephone calls to the Prime Minister, to the US President, the Governor of Florida. Private boats, planes, donated goods, generators, sat phones, building materials. A massive outpouring of aid. All accomplished because of the Abaco Message Board and those stalwart, stubborn, amazing people on the Abacos who refused to stop communicating. There is much work still to be done, but it will be done.

Computers in concert with amazing human integrity made this possible. I believe in that human integrity. I believe when our computers shut down, that we will eventually outnumber the vultures and hold each other up. I must believe that because to risk your life to save my own diminishes me. To deny you food, instead of sharing so that we might produce more together, diminishes us all. After Ive persuaded a few people to donate a helicopter or two for the Abacos, and relayed a few messages, Im going to work on that solar CB. I might even have time to investigate a ham. Flame away.

-- Casey DeFranco (caseyd@silcom.com), September 18, 1999


GODS gift was his-son,A gift of love.our gift to him is to love each other.disaster reveals the HEART.[ONLY 1 LIFE TO GIVE-ONLY 1 LIFE TO live]--y2k will be a test.

-- your message is prophetic. (dogs@zianet.com), September 18, 1999.

Thank you. The peace of the Lord...

-- T.Bryant (tbr9615456@aol.com), September 18, 1999.

Casey, beautiful -inspired post. You are my kind of people. (and I relate completely to the empty nest reference - very tender times)

-- April (Alwzapril@home.com), September 18, 1999.

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