Grim Sandy Two coeds were in line in front of me. When they heard me ask the Greyhound driver whether his bus to Raleigh had empty seats, one of them turned and spoke.
“Our 8:30 flight tonight was canceled,” she said. “We were supposed to fly to Tampa in time for classes on Monday. But the airlines told us nothing was moving in New York except buses…”
Whatever else she said was lost to me as I calculated my chances of getting out of Manhattan if I wasn’t allowed aboard. It was 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Hours earlier I’d received a cancellation notice from Delta about my Monday morning flight. Sunday flights weren’t available; after hearing the coed, I knew why.
When I received Delta’s message, I was with my partner at a restaurant in New Canaan, CT. “Try the train,” she suggested.
Amtrak didn’t respond. Since I knew their schedule well, I understood why. The next train for Danville or Durham wasn’t until Monday afternoon. Nothing would leave then.
Greyhound was my only hope. To my surprise, there was a seat available on the 6:30 p.m. bus from the Manhattan terminal. Since I’d flown to La Guardia from RDU (on Saturday), I had to return to RDU to claim my car. With my e-ticket in hand, I grimaced. Anticipated arrival time was twelve hours later.
“Bet it’s been twenty years since I rode a bus,” I said to my partner. “Wild things happened on buses then,” I mused. “Wonder if they’ve changed?”
That didn’t matter; I‘d find out soon enough. While thick gray banks of clouds piled overhead, we walked to the station.
“Let’s go to the gate,” I said. “If the bus is packed, I want to be one of the first so that I can get a seat near the front.” Years ago I’d experienced some scary things in the back of a bus.
We hurried to Gate 77. As always, the driver stood by the door punching tickets. He looked worried, as if eager to close the door to his bus and leave. That’s when I realized that, if he was that concerned about getting away at five, what would conditions be when my bus left? Waiting an hour and a half to find out made no sense.
My partner and I hugged; relative to her, I felt safe. “Please be careful,” I said. The storm was coming her way. I didn’t want to leave her.
“Call me,” she insisted.
We texted instead; vocal connections were hard to maintain. Through the night, the first driver raced to Richmond. We were more than thirty minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival. Two and a half hours later, another driver ignored the speed limit and the rain to get us to Raleigh in what seemed to be record time.
From the bus station, I took a taxi to RDU to claim my car. At about 8:15 a.m., I reached home. Danville was safe, but stormy.
For my partner, as I’d feared, news was dire. As winds powered up, she texted that two pines had blown down, roots and all, along her driveway. Later messages were bleak, scarier than any Halloween I could imagine.
One tree fell near her house and brushed her daughter’s room. Another wrecked her deck. She had no power; fortunately, her generator worked. Its output was meager; it ran her refrigerator and little more.
Trees were down on every road in her neighborhood. Her text told me there was no way out. Crews were working their way there, but they were overwhelmed. More than 80% of the homes in her community were without power.
She managed to call. Before a broken signal ended our conversation abruptly, she told me that what she was seeing reminded her of a movie she’d seen recently. It depicted our world after it had been destroyed by a human or a natural cataclysm. “That’s what this feels like,” she told me.
As much as I wanted to help, I knew I couldn’t. Nor could I ignore the immensity of the damage; the devastation she had witnessed had stranded millions of others. She’d described power lines on the ground and others that hung so loosely that cars were forced to drive under them.
Everyone in her area was trapped until a few locals with chainsaws managed to clear single lanes. That was very good news, perhaps lifesaving for some.
Although I wanted to drive to her, that made no sense.
Even a Greyhound couldn’t get me there.
B. Koplen 10/31/12
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