Floods and new beginnings: a meditation.
It’s early September 2021. We have just begun to emerge from the COVID-19 Pandemic—well, if not emerge then at least poke our heads out of our burrows. We should be getting ready to do things we haven’t done for the longest time. Normal things—apple picking, hiking amongst the colorful leaves, drinking hot chocolate or cider, maybe even a pumpkin spice latte or eleven—the trappings of a peaceful, crisp autumn day.
Instead, as we peek our heads out, we are forced to scurry back into our comfortable dens. Why? Another “unprecedented” occurrence has struck. This time it comes in the form of flooding. Hurricane Ida has come into the Philadelphia and East Falls area to devastating effect.
The Schuylkill River has overflowed, making Kelly Drive more equipped for kayaking than any motor vehicle. Ridge Ave and its residents are forced to deal with the flooding of their homes and businesses. Days, weeks, and even months later, everyone is picking up the pieces. It takes the East Falls Post Office a year and a half to reopen.
I bring you, my reader, into this time capsule because, while East Falls and Philadelphia dodged the latest catastrophic flooding of mid-July 2023, many areas around the US weren’t so lucky.
In full transparency, this may be the last article I write for this paper as I prepare to embark on a new adventure. A new job, a new life in Vermont. More specifically—Montpelier, Vermont—an area basically underwater as I type this. The news has felt eerily familiar: sudden flooding, failing infrastructure, widespread loss and destruction.
Floodwaters came nail-bitingly close to breaching the Montpelier dam – rising within one foot overnight, before slowly, thankfully receding in the morning. Close call! Had the waters spilled over, they’d have “drastically” increased flood damage in Montpelier’s downtown district (which was already walloped after record rainfall).
Watching from Philadelphia, all I could do was hope and pray for the best. As I thought about the residents of Vermont, vivid memories from September 2021 started coming back to me. Things felt like they were coming full-circle in my life.
I have loved living in East Falls for so many reasons, but Hurricane Ida was one of the moments that reinforced this. I watched what could have been a hopeless time bring so many people together. I got to see a community I already knew to be a caring and resilient one become even closer. I got to eat Slices Pizza again, against all odds.
Of course I’m not saying natural disasters are a good thing! But they underscore an inevitable and, I think, important truth in our world: We can only control so much. So many circumstances are outside our scope of influence. We make our plans in life but that’s no guarantee that something out of the blue could come up and wipe them clean away.
In such crisis, we can discover new truths about ourselves. Do we choose to break down? Or do we dig in for a strong comeback?
Resilience isn’t always something you’re born with. Resilience often comes from taking life’s battles, both personal and elemental, and realizing you’re still here. And you’re not alone. You can look around at everyone else still standing and work with them to make things a little bit better a little bit at a time.
Through historic floods and bridge-crunching freshets, East Falls has always inspired me as a great example of Philly’s pluck and determination. Remembering how our community (and indeed, all affected neighborhoods) built ourselves up after Ida, I’ve got a good feeling that the people of Vermont will tackle this calamity with the same can-do tenacity.
I’ll see for myself soon enough! In the meantime, let’s all root for positive outcomes as we hope for climate solutions.
🤝LEND A HAND🤝
Disaster recovery support is crucial in the aftermath of catastrophic events. Please consider making a donation to this summer’s flood victims:
🔥🔥🔥 And also perhaps to survivors of our country’s most recent environmental disaster, the deadly wildfires on the island of Maui. So far 36 people are dead, with many others injured and hundreds of families forced to abandon their homes, pets, and belongings 👇👇👇
- The American Red Cross is coordinating local, state and federal resources, donate here to support relief and assistance efforts.
- Maui Humane Society is at “all hands on deck” addressing pets in need during this wildfire crisis. Hundreds of pets are lost/missing and displaced. All donations of any amount gratefully appreciated, click here.
👋🫂❤️Thank You, Andrew! ❤️🫂👋
This is sadly one of Andrew’s last pieces for The Local — he’s heading north soon to his new life in Vermont. We’re so grateful for the thoughtful essays and fiction he’s shared with us over the years, and look forward to seeing him on the NY Times Bestseller list soon. ~ Steve, Carolyn and everyone at The Local