I think most of the native Rhode Islanders that are my age or younger grew up under the ever-present clouds of the Blizzard of ’78. Clouds hanging in the stories told every winter. Told every time the forecast calls for snow. Recalled every time the response time by city and town governments to clear snow or close schools is not perfect. Stories joked about every time the convenience store runs out of bread and milk at the mere mention of the possibility of the chance of maybe getting some snow.
I grew up hearing the tales and seeing the pictures. The bread and milk thing becoming a cliché of sorts but nonetheless true. I know now that the almost comical panic to stock up on food is not the paranoia of a skittish population but the lasting psychological effects of a community’s PTSD.
For my own Blizzard of 78 story, I rode out the storm and its aftermath at home with my mom. I was nine weeks old. My father, stranded in a work truck on the wrong side of the river. The highway and bridge made impassable not only by snow but also abandoned vehicles, it would be three days before he could get back to us. I can’t imagine the stress and worry that both of my parents endured in those three days, or at least I couldn’t. Not until this weekend.
Now? Well even though Karin and Liam and I stayed together and the entire ordeal lasted less than 48 hours, I think I have a pretty good idea.
Everyone around here has a Blizzard story. My friend Steve was born during the storm after his Mom had been brought to the hospital, not by an ambulance, but by a National Guard unit. An older coworker once told me that his first marriage ended during the Blizzard when they got snowed in for two weeks and she was upset that she couldn’t get out to see her boyfriend. New Englanders after all, we sure do love telling our Blizzard stories.
I have a new Blizzard story now. And while the Blizzard of 13’s snowfall totals may not be as high, and technology allowed for a level of preparedness that would have been impossible in 1978, it’s a story I won’t soon forget. It’s the story of the most stressful and scary 26 hours of my life. Far too long for a single blog, I’ll post it in chunks over the rest of the week.
Spoiler alert — we’re all fine. Liam is at home and snuggled in his own bed. The lights are now on and my radiators are warm, but for one unbearably long day none of those things were true and Karin and I had no idea how long it would be before we could say any them again. But I’m getting ahead of myself there, because when this story starts we thought we had a plan. A plan that for me, began with a whole lot of shoveling… (you’ll see)
We’ll start there tomorrow.