With their hearts they turned
to each other’s hearts for refuge
In the troubled years that came
before the deluge
— the prophet jackson browne
Because of the quirks of newspapers, economics and technology today, I live in Phoenix but edit the newspaper in Fort Myers, Florida. It’s pretty much the same news as anywhere else. Development blah blah environment blah blah taxes blah blah tony danza in a prom dress blah blah zzzzzz.
And then today I worked on the paper as they were being wiped out by a hurricane.
The deadline had been moved up to noon Arizona time because of the logistics of printing and distributing in a disaster zone, so Ian was roaring ashore there while we were trying to put the paper out. Funny how you are detached from news events until you’re in the middle of them.
The editor I deal with was working from home in the storm’s bullseye. He would pop up now and then, saying his power was back on before disappearing again. He never mentioned the havoc unfolding outside his door; he just did his job.
At one point, another editor 60 miles from ground zero mentioned that he hadn’t heard from him for a while and didn’t know if he had power, or even if he was still above water. I was nervous until he popped up a half hour later, saying things were on again. Crazy.
After the last page was sent and we paused for a metaphorical smoke break, we asked whether he’d be OK. He said his apartment is cinder block, so he was optimistic. Last I heard, their flooding had reached 10 feet. I once worked with him in real life. He’s about 5-10. Do the math.
After my shift, I went to the bird park and strolled around the pond for a couple of miles. It was calm. The herons were bored. No storm surge.
We take life for granted, but somewhere on the planet, every single second of every day, someone’s life is being upended. It’s so easy to forget. But what can you do?
I suppose you just make deadline and move on. To the next edition, the next disaster, the next mile.
There is no finish line.