22 September 2008

Gone With the Flood

Between 5:10 and 7:05 this morning, waters running through the street where I live rose from curb-level to 15 inches inside My house. In the span of less than two hours, My furniture was sodden, My game collection was in tatters, one-third to one-half of My books were ruined and that was just the beginning. 

By shortly after 8 a.m., the water level inside the house was 28 inches. Thanks to My sister and a very generous gentleman named Dennis, I was able to rescue My computer and some other small items. By that time, I had to slog through chest-deep water some 700-750 feet to get into My house.

The impact of what I've lost won't hit Me until I have to get rid of the ruins. Thirty-plus years of possessions, mementos from My family and friends, manuscripts, files and personal memories are now plastered with mud. In the midst of a rare streak of deep disappointment in My career, I get My life largely erased.

The water crested at 35 inches. The cause was the drainage canal that runs behind My house. Not that the canal failed: It never reached halfway up its 16-foot walls. The problem was a quarter mile away, where the natural canal becomes a concrete half-tunnel. Since June, residents in My area had been asking for the City to clean out debris and garbage at the transition point, where dirt walls become cement slabs.

The heavy rains began at about 2:40 this morning, adding to already-soaked ground. But the last flooding in the area happened during Hurricane Georges, in 1998, and that after a 3-day rainfall of almost 7 inches. Earlier this month, almost 4 inches of rain fell over a three-day period and though water did lap at the front yard, it was far from running up into the houses.

With less than 2 inches of rainfall, the water surge along the natural canal pounded the blockage and thrashed the ground around the entrance to the drainage canal. At about 5:30, the ground to the left of the canal gave way and a huge surge of water smashed into the streets. As the drainage canal remained at relatively low levels, a deep stream of water flowed into My neighborhood, a little valley whose closest bowl-bottom is just a few steps from My door.

A car parked across from My house went from hubcap-deep to door-deep to only the roof being visible in less than an hour. A circled area of over 1,500 feet was swamped with water from a foot to about four feet in depth, with some 20-25 houses flooded. All of it inevitable once the drainage canal was blocked. All of it avoidable if the blockage had been removed anytime in the past four months.

Wednesday or Thursday I'll start cleaning out the pigsty that My house has become. I'll mourn the loss of My games, a source of deep pleasure and entertainment I shared with My Son and Nephews. I'll mourn My books, which have occasionally proven to be more important to Me than food. I'll mourn My lost manuscripts, the notes and ideas that are now illegible. And I'll mourn the loss of years of time, effort and money, along with the past that is now beyond reach.

But that's then. For now, I'll stay busy. What I can and want to replace, I will. What is irretrievable will be remembered for what it's worth. Everything else is now moot. And with the massive loss, I believe, comes a freedom to define who and what I really am, what I want to become and how I want to achieve it. The next time I move--for I will move--it will be much easier, lighter, freer. 

And that could turn out to be a good thing. In fact, I'm pretty sure it will be.


Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about your loss, Gil. :-( I do like your attitude though. I had a writer friend tell me once that he didn't feel like he truly started writing well until he learned to kill his children, throw out, rewrite, and be willing to toss out all that stuff that he thought was good, but was really holding him back.

I guess you're right, there's an upside. Keep thinking about that upside.

On the professional side: I was thinking of enrolling in an auto mechanics school. I'm tired of computer shit, and thought it sounded like fun. Who knows?

lucilla said...

Gil if there are any books that I can send you from our library, let me know. I know some books hold sentimental value(like my two books that my parents had my name printed in to go along with the storyline)but we have plenty in my home. Let us know where we can send them.

The Insider said...

Sorry to hear about that Gil. I've seen some photos of what I think is your neighborhood. Unbelievable.

Moving around from Canada to California & back, domestically within Canada, and to Puerto Rico in the last 10 years has forced me to discover the stress of managing personal belongings & the eventual requirement of seeing them left behind or lost. I have a book collection scattered at about 4 different locations now, and have a lot of friends/family who luck out when I move and leave stuff behind for them. :) Or maybe carry my burden in the case of those whose storage space I'm consuming!

You've got a great attitude, and it will probably just fuel your creative juices even more now that your books/games/documents took a hit.

You are probably already aware, but (but just in case) you can often find great deals from the 3rd party used book vendors on Amazon, especially for older books that might have been in your collection. I buy from there frequently, and often get some for a couple dollars + shipping. Check that out, as I'm sure if you are like me, once you have read it, you like to have it available in your library as a reference. If you make a list of those lost, you can replace them over time.

Now that the waters have subsided, I hope everything is going well with the cleanup. I'd love to see the letter you'll be writing to the Cabo Rojo mayors office regarding the issue you noted with the maintenance of the drainage canal! Maybe we'll see an open letter on your blog? ;)

Anonymous said...

Ouch! I am so sorry to hear all of this. Things that hold sentimental value are almost as irreplaceable and valuable as one's life.

When just like that our things are swept out of existence, it is a time of deep reflection and self-evaluation. I am happy you are okay.

I hope things can get back to some kind of normal as soon as possible.


Unknown said...

Hey Gil...wow what an experience...my heart is aching. However you have proved once again what an amazing writer you are as I felt I went through the experience with you! Just know your "Chicks" in Canada are thinking about you! You could always come up here and trade the rain for snow!! Seriously our thoughts are with you!