It was February 1976. Many terrible things had happened in recent months leading up to this time. The reason this story has even come to my mind is because Hurricane Earl is barreling up the Eastern Seaboard preparing to lash the Maritimes.
Just prior to this timeframe, my birth dad had died in January, just before his 43rd birthday – very suddenly. I was only 17 at the time and it was a mind numbing shocker for me. I loved him so much.
So you can imagine that only one short month after this incredible tragedy, when the windows began shaking due to high winds at school one day, it was a concern. So much so that they dismissed us early. We were bus students and we had a long way to go – out to the outports and fishing villages – directly into the hurricane path of the Groundhog Gale.
As we drove, I know it took unknown strength and focus from the school bus driver as trees were being tossed about like leaves and this was only the beginning. Since we had to cross some narrow roads along the sea wall – the waves were sloshing higher, higher as if taunting us to dare stop, for it would be over.
You sat on the bus with a brave face on because as a Maritimer, ‘these things happen’, but the inside turmoil of never having witnessed something as ferocious as this was keeping all of us quiet on the bus.
The gale force winds rose and we pressed on delivering each student to their respective homes – at least for now they were our homes.
By the time the bus arrived to my house – I could see something was wrong. My mom emerged from my aunt’s house and indicated for me to come to her. Our house was across the road – why couldn’t we go there? I was fearful. She told me that the house had been lifted from its very foundation and the windows were blown in. We lost hydro. Darkness. The winds howled and our imagination took us to the sea – hoping for the best, expecting the worst about the docks, the boats, the livelihood of so many.
It was a whole week for power to be restored. In the meantime, a few of us stayed with my aunt and we played games by wood fire and candlelight. We conjured food on the camp stove and we huddled under heavy quilts to keep us warm away from the çentral heating’of the woodstove.
Once it was safe to venture outside, the news began to spread about the extensive damage in the area. Fishing boats smashed to bits like kindling wood for a campfire. This included the boat my father left behind upon his death The Betty Charla. It made his loss go even deeper – if that was even possible. No longer would that boat sail for fish or lobsters – it was devastating.
It was also extremely upsetting to see my bedroom with glass all over – like an illegitimate invader into our home – and no respect for the property at all. My parents had a lot of clean up and restoration in order to resettle.
Life on the ocean is a magnificent and fierce place to be. Godspeed to those hunkering down and trying to prepare for Earl’s unwelcome visit.