An hour later, Gordon finally made it into town. The damage he saw was breathtaking. When he had left that morning for Providence, people were in summer clothing, enjoying themselves without a care in the world. Now the town looked like the ruins of a bombed-out village in Europe.
A police car slowed down next to him, and the cop motioned for him to approach the vehicle. “What the hell are you doing out in this?”
“I got into an accident out on 91 in Ashaway, almost ran right into a giant oak. I have to get to my wife. She’s due any day now.”
“Oh, shit. Get in. Where do you live?”
“Top of Tower Street, number 56.”
” Okay, I have to turn around and go back through Oak Street.”
“All of downtown is under water. It’s a mess. I can’t believe you made it on foot from Ashaway.”
The officer turned the police car around in the middle of the street and headed toward Tower Street. Gordon stopped listening as the officer nervously recounted some of the awful things he’d seen and heard. He didn’t want to start crying again, especially not in front of the cop. He remembered a diversion technique he had taught himself when he was a kid. Pinching his thigh hard and focusing on the physical pain helped him control his emotional pain.
As the officer turned a corner, he almost sideswiped a utility pole that had fallen on only the driver’s side of a 1935 Chevy Standard. A woman was screaming in front of a five and dime whose front windows were smashed in, debris strewn around inside. He stopped the cruiser, turned on his emergency light, and exited. “Stay here,” he ordered.
Gordon absentmindedly disobeyed, looked around on the ground before setting foot outside to ensure he didn’t get electrocuted by any fallen power lines.
The officer was trying to get the woman to safety but she was inconsolable. Gordon gingerly walked around the rear of the Chevy and the pole that had demolished it. As he got closer, he was able to understand why the woman was in hysterics. Her husband was under the heavy pole, his skull crushed along with the steering column and dashboard.
No matter how gruesome a scene, somehow Gordon’s mind saw only the wedding band that was still on the man’s ring finger. He noted how clean and normal the hand looked as if the guy was still alive and would come out from under the pole and dust himself off. This man was about the same age as he, maybe a little younger, perhaps recently married. His wife’s life had been ruined forever by a single moment in time.
All of the emotions Gordon had been trying to hold back since the accident returned to the surface. A surge of adrenaline accompanied the panic attack he was once again experiencing. He started running toward his home, still limping, clothes soaked, and didn’t even think to thank the policeman who was now yelling for him to return, warning him how dangerous it was to be out in the storm. Gordon just wanted, — no, needed — to see his wife. He had to hold her in his arms, to know she and the baby and Lee were okay.
Walking past each building, he tried not to take notice of all of the damage. Broken windows, roofs missing, trees on top of homes and cars. All that he saw added to the nightmarish images he was trying to ignore of what he might find when he got home.
Suddenly, a large tree branch flew right at Gordon as if Mother Nature herself had decided to stop him from seeing his one true love ever again. He quickly moved to the right so that all he suffered were scratches from the ends of the branches.
Gordon finally turned onto Tower Street. Elm trees on both sides of the street had fallen and those that hadn’t were bent over so far they wouldn’t be intact for much longer.
Gordon could feel the steep incline in his calves, adding to all of his aches and pains. He was thirsty, cold, and sweating at the same time, and could feel his heart beating so hard he thought it was either going to burst out of his chest or he would just drop dead of a heart attack.