I was sitting watching the TV earlier this evening and I suddenly thought, hey it’s October. What date was it during October in 1987 that the fierce storm/hurricane struck? So I looked it up and it was tonight and tomorrow. Well, the proper terms are that the storm formed on October 15th and dissipated on October 16th. It was 25 years ago to the night. Can you recall that night?
I can because of a silly series of events to do with one of my hamsters. I saw the whole thing from the time it hit my area because I was on a mission that night. I had an albino hamster called Snowy. He was pure white with pink eyes. He was a brilliant escape artist. He had a nice big cage but he kept managing to get out. So I tied my belt with the Native American Indian Geronimo buckle around the outside of the cage. I thought that it would keep the cage door secure and that Snowy would not be able to squeeze his way out. But he must have been an old soul and escaped from Alcatraz in a past life because he got out again. I could not find him this time. I put food out. No sign. After the second day I started to get worried that he would be hungry. So I decided to put a bowl of food in the middle of the front room and to sneak and peak into the room to see if I could catch him red eyed and red handed.
It was the night of October 15th 1987. I left the food out and sneaked on slippered feet into the living room. The food was untouched. I looked around the room. Spot the deliberate mistake. I had a big plant by the window. Somehow one of the long stalks had been transported across the room and was sticking out of the sofa. No wonder the little darling had not been hungry. I gently pulled the sofa out and looked behind. He was an escapist, architect and builder all rolled into one little white furry ball. He had pulled the stuffing out from a section of the back of the sofa and had made himself a lovely little snug. There were enough leaves from my plant there for a feast. He looked livid that I had found him and disturbed his night.
I was living on the 6th floor of a tower block at the time. It had been silent but suddenley I heard a whirring. I stepped to the window and looked down at the park area. I could see little whirring circles of wind. I thought that it was strange as I had not seen the wind spin like that before. Then I watched as a small spindley tree was ripped out of the ground as though an invisible hand had just decided to wrench it out of the ground and then discard it. As I was on the 6th Floor I could see other peoples’ lights from quite far away. Then they all went out like someone had snuffed them out, again with a giant hand.My spinal fluid seemed to turn to ice. I had read about that happening but had not experienced it until then. I really did feel an icy chill travel all the way down my spine.
The wind began to howl. I luckily had some candles and I groped my way into the kitchen and found them. My daughter was six years old at the time and she slept through the whole night. I took her into my room and just laid in bed, clutching at the duvet, trying to keep calm. Although I knew that there were lots of people close to me, it felt like I was completely cut off and alone. The night took so long to go. I remember the thought crossing my mind that daylight might never come again. I was scared because I thought that the tower block might snap or one of the others close by could topple and fall on us.
Eventually the morning came and we ventured outside. No one could believe the events of the night. But even though the storm had died down I could not believe my eyes. The tower block near to us was swaying. It was swaying when the winds had died down! Someone explained that this was exactly what they were designed to do because if they stayed perfectly still in really strong winds, they would break. Snap, crackle and POP
I walked with difficulty because the winds were against me and actually found a telephone that was working. I called my parents who lived in the countryside to make sure that they were all safe. They were. When I got home, I realised that I had left my purse in the phone box. I battled against the wind again to try to retrieve it but it had gone. I was a little upset about losing £14 and some pennies but I thought back to what I had experienced overnight and it all fell into perspective. I had lost a small amount of money but me and my family were safe.
Amazingly I got a visit from a policemen a few days later. A fourteen year old boy had found my purse and he had taken it to the police station. I had a piece of paper in it which enabled the policeman to contact me. I was so impressed with the boy because all of the money was there. I asked the policeman for the boy’s address as I wanted to go and thank him for being so honest and kind. I went round and spoke to him and his mother and I gave him some of the money. I wonder if he still remembers his own good deed on the morning after the storm.
It was devastating to see so many trees uprooted, old beautiful trees that had been part of the landscape for so long. Many people that I spoke to felt so sad as they could not be replaced. I was in awe of nature. I always had been but the sheer power of the wind on that night was incredible. It had uprooted approximately fifteen million trees. That is impossible to visualise.
I was only on the 6th floor. One of my friends lived on the top of a block on the 22nd floor. She said that it had been very frightening and she had been watching her goldfish in their bowl as it was being rocked back and forth and the water was acting like waves. The poor fish probably felt sea sick.
I am going to end this with a poem by Ted Hughes. We studied him at school and this poem was included, nameless, in my A Level English Literature paper. I loved this poet so I was able to write a critique of it and name Ted Hughes as the author. I think that his descriptions of nature are amazing. In the morning of 16th October , I remember the first words of this poem coming into my head “This house has been far out at sea all night”and for the first time I really knew what he was trying to describe. So apt.
This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet
Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.
At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,
The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house
Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
Ted Hughes :