What’s the use of praying for protection?
The wind was whipping through the trees as a heavy rain pelted the windows. Like millions of others, we were preparing for the worst — a flooded basement, a week-long power outage, downed limbs and a repeat of the scenario we’ve endured for three straight years. But it was worse.
What was so unsettling was that the “Frankenstorm,” the “Superstorm,” Hurricane Sandy, hit on my wife Sandy’s birthday. What are the odds of that happening, and even more disturbing, what are the implications? Should I have married a woman named Esperanza or Chaka Khan, who as far as I can tell, have not been the names of any major hurricanes yet.
Like everyone else, we spent the weekend looking for batteries and food and bought all the snacks off the shelf in T.J. Maxx because the line at Trader Joe’s was out the door, which meant we were destined to subsist for a week on gourmet jelly beans and popcorn.
After preparing the flashlights, the camp stove and the transitor radios, we followed an old Italian tradition and hung rosaries in the windows to protect us. I’ve known more than one bride who put rosaries out on her wedding day as an appeal to the Lord of the Universe for good weather.
And in front of the double-window in the living room was a five-foot statue of the Virgin Mary and St. Anne, which our friend saved from a dumpster after a church in West Haven threw it out. As a final precaution, we prayed our Hail Marys for protection and then waited for the inevitable, which came suddenly.
Throughout the afternoon, storm winds were tossing the trees, and at 5:35, we heard the horrifying sound of roots being ripped from the earth. When I looked up in terror, a 100-foot oak was falling toward me. I dove for cover, and it landed on the roof with a thunderous crash, right above the propane tank. Then, the real hysteria started.
The power went out, and we heard that sound again, and an even bigger oak slammed into the first one. A few minutes later, a third monstrous tree fell on top of the others. It seemed as if every tree in the yard was being uprooted and hurled at our home — and Sandy hadn’t even made landfall yet.
What followed was a torturously long night, listening to the howling wind in anticipation of another life-threatening catastrophe, which we were sure would occur because our home is surrounded by towering trees.
As we sat on the living room floor, illuminated only by a single candle, someone grumbled, “Is that what prayer gets you? What’s the use of praying for protection?” I certainly had my doubts while I watched the trees swirling in the darkness outside and heard the roof creaking under the weight.
Only in the morning, when I surveyed the damage, did I realize what happened. The first oak slammed into the house a few feet from the propane tank. The other two trees, which were even larger, would surely have hit the tank and crashed through the living room if they hadn’t been blocked by the first tree, which protected us.
When I looked at the house through the tangle of branches, I saw the statue of the Virgin Mary and St. Anne staring back at me from the double-window, right where the trees stopped falling.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.