Up Front and Personal

Safe, Sound and Powerless

By Msgr. Steven Ferrari

My fingers were white-knuckled tight, anxiously gripping the steering wheel as I drove through the hailstorm tornado. Driving eastbound on Interstate 84 through Danbury, Conn., on Tuesday afternoon, May 15, shortly before 5 p.m., I was heading to Southbury, some 15 miles further east.

Having left St. Teresa’s, Woodside, before 3 p.m., I had felt fairly confident of beating the predicted storm before it struck. But heavy traffic and weather-conscious drivers would turn the usual 95-minute drive to Southbury into a nearly three-and-a-half hour ordeal of fear, caution and prayer. Through my rear-view mirror, I could see the dark cloud storm advancing toward me. When it struck, the hailstones caused me to fear the car’s windshield might be shattered.

At one point between exits nine and 10, near Newtown/Sandy Hook, I noticed that absolutely no vehicles were driving on the westbound lanes. A serious accident up ahead, perhaps? When the slow-moving line of traffic reached the ‘accident,’ I was startled to see a huge tree fallen across the entire westbound lanes of Interstate 84, effectively stopping all traffic from moving forward. Indeed, as I proceeded tentatively eastbound in the continued heavy rain, the far right lane was also often blocked by downed trees.

I drove off the interstate at Exit 14 – Southbury. All traffic lights in town were out. Main Street North and South were strewn with uprooted trees. It looked like a war zone.

One large tree had crashed through the roof of the funeral home. None of the stores, businesses or homes had lights on. Several roads were impassable due to fallen trees and dangerous downed power lines. Arriving at the condo, I discovered there was no electricity (the entire condo is electric – no oil or gas – so cooking was also out-of-the-question). I went to bed when the cloud-drenched sun went down with handy flashlights at the ready.

On Wednesday morning, there was still no power. I discovered eventually that 95 percent of the town was powerless. Yes, a tornado had struck this town of some 25,000 people and the neighboring town of Oxford. Perhaps several days would be required to restore full power.

So used am I to turning on a switch to put on the overhead light, turn on the radio, television or computer, or heat up water for a cup of tea, that I found myself strangely disconcerted. What a taken-for-granted gift electricity is in our daily American lives. I thought about the hard lives of those who went before us, and even people today, without modern power sources. I prayed for those who lost lives and property in the storm. I thanked God I was safe and sound, and yes, powerless.

In fact, in so many ways I am ‘powerless.’ For who can control Mother Nature or God the Father, or the movement of tides and storms? Only one Power can control these, and I bow down to Him.

Msgr. Ferrari is the pastor of St. Teresa’s parish, Woodside.

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