Since our last post, we have experienced a bumpy and wet start to the fall, punctuated by the 5.8 East Coast earthquake — yes, we felt it! — and the presence of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee within two weeks. In a strange way, our attention was pulled away from the national recognition of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 by our own local disaster taking place between September 8 and September 10. During the historic Lee flooding, we were evacuated from our campus apartment to the farmhouse, which luckily stayed dry. It was surreal indeed to know that our neighbors less than five miles down the road had water creeping up their first floors. By Sunday, September 11, the evacuation order was lifted, and we were able to sit down in front of our TVs and radios and turn our thoughts to the national memorial — away from our own fears about whether or not the levees would hold.
So many small and large communities alike have been affected by this flood. We have been aware of the amazing community spirit in some of our small towns. Honestly, it is a privilege to be with them, help out, and share in that spirit. As time passes, because so many of us were not affected, it can be easy to forget. Here at the farm, we have organized an October benefit dinner for two families in communities that are more than an hour away from each other but are both near the banks of the same mighty Susquehanna. Our own little stream was transformed into a river, our wheelbarrow was filled to the brim, but our garden was fortunately well-drained enough not to be too affected.
Tragically, just ten miles east of us in the town of Shickshinny (population 900) — a lovably-named, unassuming little place whose streets had just a month before seen parades and festivities to celebrate its 150th anniversary — refuse, drywall, and mud-soaked furniture still rests in piles on the sidewalks. It’s hard to tell whether the town will live again at all. But the “Shickshinny Gorilla” (something out of Flannery O’Connor who is a fixture on Main Street, advertising a fitness center and known as “Mr. Gorilla” to our 4-year-old son, Peter) lives on in his Facebook page, with 1,912 fans.