October 12, 1962
Dhut…Dhut…dhut-dhut-dhut-dhut… Is that gunfire? It sounded like…not far away.
Dhut!…Dhut!…dhut-dhut-dhut-dhut! That sounded like…from the lane! I jumped up to the window. Soldiers!
What? Camo-clad soldiers were advancing toward the park! Terrified! Inhaling in short bursts. A jet fighter rockets past, over the schoolyard! Heart racing!
I wake up, startled, eyes wide open, heart still pounding. Middle of the night. Suddenly;
Dhut-Dhut-Dhut…Dhut-Dhut! The sound of branches hitting the window! Furiously, the winds howling!
Hurricane Frieda had come aground and a once quiet residential neighbourhood has become a battlefield!
A loud crack! Next door, a giant evergreen snaps in the ferocity, and heads straight for the house. Sparks fly into madness as it takes out the power lines enroute to demolishing the nieghbours deck. Corrugated roof panels sail past the window. Their daughters, Diane and Darlene screaming and crying at the terror!
Neighbour helping neighbour, desperation, to be heard above all, to make safe, as best they could, still… Frieda kicks around lawn furniture, wheel barrows, garbage cans, like an angry and spoiled child. Dhut-Dhut-Dhut…Dhut! Another window pane cracks!
“Geordie wake- up!” I whisper loudly to the upper bunk. “Whaaa..?” “There’s a hurricane!” I whisper again. “Nothin’s gonna happen….go back to sleep” “How do you know?” I insist. “Cuz I’m 8 and your 5…I know all kinds of stuff you don’t know yet” he slurred into his pillow…and with that, my brother drifted off .
I could not sleep. All the commotion. I Got dressed quickly, wearing only pajamas felt too vulnerable. I wanted to be ready. Though wary,I couldn’t stay away from the window. The lights flicker, then… out. Darkness.
The worst of her past, though, still blustery, is my last memory, prior to waking up to chain saws buzzing by the park. Yellow lights flashing against the gray twilight sky. A sky that still looked angry, a sky moving quickly overhead.
Parents’ bedroom door: closed. I do not go in, or knock. I slip downstairs, jacket and boots, on. Quietly, out the basement door, as not to wake anyone and disrupt my determination to satisfy my curiosity.
City crews were clearing fallen trees and branches from roadways. The electric company crews repair downed lines. Backyard content, debris, absent patterns, scattered randomly, completely and perfectly randomly. Every kind of thing, strewn every kind of place. keeping clear of danger, taking long ways around, finally reaching Elwell Street, the edge of the park. Here I could see the full wrath of Frieda. A rain forest apocalypse. Hundreds of evergreens and other trees, uprooted, snapped in half, criss-crossed over one another.
We used to play in this forest. All the neighbourhood kids would Hide and seek here . Trees, stumps, logs, bushes, “Ok! I give up!” seekers would shout. “Here I am!” Hiders would shout and emerge from their squirreled holes to take over the seekers role. This… was perhaps my first encounter with a heavy heart.
Bradley and Calvin, then Dave Somerset, soon others show up, curious to see what everything looked like. All with dark rings under our eyes. Climbing in, out, and around the jungle gym our fallen forest friends had created. A huge tow truck arrived to move a clump of trees across the intersection at Elwell and 1st. We all gathered to watch. A teen, who lived across the street, Kenny Crenna, had been surveying the scene announced prophetically; “things will never be the same around here”.
Not sure why… dread?… An intuition? I welled up. Unexplainable at the time. But this hurricane brought more destruction than that before our eyes. Frieda set into motion changes, and that night was the beginning of a twelve year downward spiral in the life of John Tkhaos.
What happens to John after hurricane Frieda? You’ll find out over the next few posts! Thanks for reading.