By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. Whether it is because of the unsettling information we have received minute by minute over the last few days; whether it is because of the ominous predictions of so many knowledgeable authorities; whether it is because it is just 5:48 a.m. and it is still pitch black, the moment of the day when night fights its ouster and will not cede to the light, I cannot say… but this is a moment of apprehension, disquiet…even dread.
This is the moment we remember the power of a Nature we so often forget and so regularly outrage.
Now this Nature has reminded us of where true power resides… and of what it means when we talk of an “act of God.”
For now, this very minute, amongst the treasures and securities of my comfortable life, I await the advent of the manifestation of unrelenting power, a force capable of disrupting this cherished life in an instant, leaving me, and millions like me, bereft, shocked, lamenting.
This is the tale of an act of God, called Irene by mankind; this is the tale of one man in storm’s path, waiting, waiting, every daily occupation and thought now set aside while we await the capricious judgement of this mighty storm.
We ask ourselves and carefully scan our multitude of information sources for answers to these insistent queries:
When will it hit?
Where will it hit?
How long will it punish us?
What will it take… what will it leave?
These are the questions of the hour… and we have only the fallible devices of challenged mankind to answer them… and so “the answer is blowin’ in the wind…” Thus I selected “Blowin’ in the Wind” for today’s background music. You can easily find it in any search engine. Find it now and listen carefully.
Written by Bob Dylan in 1962, it became the anthem of a restless generation… which wanted answers… and got none. Now I want answers, too, and renewed securities and peace of mind…. But none but God Himself could reassure me at this moment when even the coolest hand of all craves confidence to be reinforced, restored.
6:25 a.m., first light.
From the window of my study I look out upon the usual early day scene. There is rain in the air… and a light breeze blows the still-green leaves, not yet touched by an autumn now just days away. It is quiet now… no living soul to be seen. This is my world… and at this moment no man alive could say what its condition will be just hours away. But we know, in every fibre, that what is present now will somehow be different, great or small; storms, even as they weaken, make sure of that.
Like millions I scan the news services, not so much for a history of this storm’s destructiveness as for clues and prognostications of what my future holds in the hours ahead. Fallible though even the greatest storm authorities can be, I nonetheless examine their predictions with care; my life, my future, perhaps my very existence on this planet is here foreshadowed. Whether the news be intoxicatingly good or the very worst it could be, I must know…
While scanning my sources, gleaning every fact, I note the condition of my dining room; my storm command center. There are crumbs on floor and table, this room with its historic paintings on the wall not as pristine and well ordered as usual…. and there’s the open pizza box, a certain sign that last night’s meal was eaten in a rush, gulped down while listening to the latest storm coverage. People facing grave disruption, even extinction do not concern themselves with dirty dishes and wayward crumbs. They have graver issues at hand than where crumbs have fallen and what to do with last night’s congealed remains. Normality is when these matters regain our notice with broom and dust pan at the ready. What seizes my attention now is battlefield intelligence from this fast- moving war zone.
9 of my fellow humans, quick and alive just hours ago, now dead. Irene has cost them everything while robbing us of the necessary time and mental state essential for mourning. For now, the dead must take care of the dead; the living have other priorities.
Item: Millions of people from first battered North Carolina north have “at this hour” (as only t.v. newscasters ever say) no electricity… It’s loss drives home their vulnerability and submission to the storm. To be without power is to lose the vital moorings of life. To lose power is to be removed at an instant from every essential service of the 21st century. We feel its loss keenly, for the loss of power is crippling, humbling, demoting us in an instant to the primitive realities of our ancestors who lived with the reality that it is better to light just one little candle than curse the darkness. Do you have your candle ready for just this moment? I do…
The news reports are coming in thick and fast now as sleepy journalists file the day’s first reports. Outside the windows the trees now bend low before a wind not so gentle as before. The light of early Sunday morning is greyer now and obscured by the rain, now heavier, harder falling. Is this a worrisome portent of what we may expect as Irene moves toward us… or is it but the kind of storm that irritates and inconveniences but does not disrupt or kill?
While I wonder, the great cities of the Eastern seaboard are shuttered, quiet, watchful; it’s inhabitants chary, anxious, hopeful that they and their world will survive intact, this incident to be forgotten, not the day of dread remembrance which may still be their fate. They cannot know if their roofs will hold, they cannot know if they will suffer and lose all; they cannot know if dear friends and neighbors will die. And they cannot know in these hours before impact if they will live… or be nothing more than a statistic, dead, so brought to oblivion by Irene’s thoughtless puissance.
Its winds now 115 miles per hour.
Its wingspan 500 miles.
Frothing the sea with waves of 7 feet.
And the most important statistic of all: 65,00,000 million people directly impacted, prisoners of a remorseless presence, disregarding the people of this land, their lives and occupations. Storms care nothing for these; their movements, their actions; in everything they do explicable only to themselves and answerable to none.
Darkness now covers the land, the day now awash in heavy rain from a darkening sky. Except for a few daredevils, impacted humanity is now inside, hopeful, a nervous prayer on their lips and quiet words to God for deliverance. My shutters are beating now against the glass… the chandelier above my head has now flickered and flickered again. Thus does the great storm announce its movements and threaten our already threatened equilibrium.
It is said that there are no atheists in a fox hole. Neither do such disbelievers abide in storm zones and catastrophes. In such times prayers come as easily as breathing. As the stormy sea rises, as the seas rush in to threaten and drown our realities, this is my prayer, for myself and my beleaguered fellow travelers now facing the fate that great Irene carries through the surges for us all:
“O Eternal Lord God, who alone spreads out the heavens and rules the raging of the seas, receive into your protection all those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business on the great waters. Preserve them both in body and soul, prosper their labors with good success, in all times of danger, be their defense, and bring them to the haven where they would be, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Let God hear this our prayer for we are all mariners today, threatened by Irene’s great wind, roiling the seas around us… and so now we wait… prepare… and pray,, our Lord our sure redeemer now and forever.