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“Flooded”

September 7, 2011

Page 5

 

their homes, their businesses, eighty percent of their town. It’s their Katrina, but with little or no news coverage. But even those thoughts were less wrenching than the ones circling Lorraine Osborne, a generous, outspoken, joyful woman. The water was rising fast; her husband got the truck out from the garage just as the house started to move…with Lorraine waiting inside in a wheelchair. He couldn’t get to her. It’s a thought you can’t think for long.

And then there’s the reality underlying the love and luck and that is the rain itself. The sheer amount. Over a foot of rain, some places recorded a foot and a half, fell across the whole of Windham’s watershed—in six hours. No system could have handled it. Fifty-one years ago, Hurricane Donna brought in our last flood—not half as strong but worrisome enough for the federal government to build two flood dams, which did hold. But where there’s hurt, there’s often anger, and that means blame. The City and the DEP are always targets. But this outward-facing charge deflects us from the real problem: our inability to both listen and think when it means looking at our own way of life. Will we continue to add huge amounts of carbon to the atmosphere? What is eerie is the accuracy of the climatologists’ predictions—everything is happening just the way they said it would. More carbon particles means the air can hold more moisture until it becomes too heavy and drops. We get more intense rain with fewer storms. Can we remain so willfully blind?

Or can something of what we’ve witnessed here help? It might have been enough to work each day with my siblings and their spouses and children and their children’s friends… an extended family broadening into a community. But the word community is tired and narrowly provincial, it doesn’t usually include strangers—giving with no personal investment or thought of gain. For that, we need to resurrect the once common word society. Can our collective and political imagination grow into that generous word again? Extending not just into our past but also into our future? Our kids and grandkids will be there, alongside people we do not know. I’m risking a bit of hope.

September, 2011

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