Having grown up in New Jersey and having family there, I’ve been tracking Hurricane Irene like many of you. My brother lives three miles from the ocean, and so I’m hoping and thinking he and his family will head inland to my mom’s house soon. Meanwhile, there are the looping streams of a massive white swirl in satellite photos along with dramatic footage of battering winds parading across facebook updates and the news.
When I was growing up, first in Brooklyn and then in central Jersey, I don’t remember the stress of waiting for big hurricanes to bear down upon us, not because they weren’t happening every so often but because I was an oblivious kid, tucked safely in my own imagination (just about every parent-teacher conference my mom attended had a complaint in it about my incessant daydreaming) and because there wasn’t so much wall-to-wall, facebook-twitter-texting-cable TV-radio news non-stop coverage. Because those who chased storms didn’t have as easy access to good video cameras and ways to upload what they found to ready venues, there was surely a lot less images available to share in the first place.
Instead, I remember my grandma yelling at me because I was standing at the window, watching trees bow in unison and trash cans fly down the street. “Get away from the window or you’ll be killed!” she said, and so I did…..at least until she left the room again. There was a sense of danger, but also a greater sense of safety, being tucked behind walls or windows.
Now all the media tracking of storms, coupled with the quantum leaps in meteorological tools, makes watching the storm a kind of sport or thriller or some odd combination. Among others, I check in with the ongoing story at times, and if I lived right there, I would probably have the latest advances of Irene blasting in the background all day and night, just as we do when tornado warnings abound. Checking in isn’t standing at a window anymore and watching, but looking through the window of the computer screen, knowing enough to hope for the health of all those affected and the safe return there of the clear blue skies we have here.