In the Merrimack Valley

of Massachusetts it’s been a harrowing couple of days. While watching the news on Thursday afternoon, for a weather update, wanting to keep track of Florence and her northward journey, there was some breaking news that forced any thought of the approaching hurricane, out. At approximately 4:54 there was a red banner across the screen announcing there were twenty explosions that had shaken the towns of Andover, North Andover and the city of Lawrence. Final count at the end of the siege was put between 50 and 60, all going off within quick succession of each other. It meant that fire departments were chasing the clock and the flames as they raced across town trying to stay on top of them all. Many localities from the surrounding area sent services, fire departments routed to the escalating scene, and ambulances from as twenty miles away sent to the affected area. We are all grateful for their care and diligence.

I was glued to the screen, in mind-numbing focus, as I watched chaos erupt in my small part of the world. Several of the homes that were leveled were less than a mile away from me. The neighborhood was familiar, one I drive through regularly.

A witness interviewed said it looked like Armageddon out there and as the TV and helicopter videos panned across the valley, I thought he was right. The Lawrence mayor came out and told everyone in the south part of the city to evacuate, many in the other local towns were told to do the same. There was a command post set up in a local strip mall, another in a vacant theater parking lot. The governor declared a state of emergency, a congressman made an appearance as did the two senators from the state. Electricity was cut off to prevent any sparks from igniting more fires. The whole area was in total darkness that night.

Two days later, for many, there’s still a lingering fear that homes are not safe. The gas company that was in charge has been fired, a new one given the job of restoration but how long will it take, is still uncertain. And what will happen when the service is restored? No one knows, which has everyone on edge.

I am lucky. I have oil heat and a generator. I had lights, heat, hot water and a running refrigerator. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t affected by the tragedy. It was horrible watching the communities burn, heartbreaking to see people lose their possessions. A policeman showed up to his neighborhood to see his house burning out of control but as soon as he got confirmation his family was safe, he directed traffic, evacuated the area and gave himself over to helping others. There are some, like him, who lost everything, and who will need to rebuild. There were people hurt, and one young man lost his life. But as always, a kindred spirit emerged that brought people together. Restaurants brought in food, Bertucci’s erected a pit to make pizza, the MSPCA took in animals that needed shelter, Market Basket sent food for the firefighters, Walmart sent in a truck filled with donations, agencies worked together for the good of the community.

It’s a nice place to live but I hope the Merrimack Valley is never in the news like that again.

 

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