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The value of words

July 3, 2012

This June, 18.66 inches of rain fell at Tampa International Airport, allowing June 2012 to edge out June 1945 (18.52″) as the rainiest on record. Almost all of it came last weekend, thanks to the stall tactics of Tropical Storm Debby. I mean, holy cow, I went to Barnes and Noble last Sunday and had to double back three times on the way home because of flooded roads. It was something, I tell you. A handful of people died because of the storm and some had severe storm damage. That might seem impressive to you.

Unless you live in Colorado Springs.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner lives in Colorado Springs. She has friends who’ve had to evacuate their homes. She blogs nearly every day, but Wednesday, she posted some pictures and said she couldn’t post much. She didn’t post at all Thursday, and she posted Friday saying that she hadn’t been able to work.

A few years ago, Nashville had horrible floods. Mystery writer JT Ellison also blogs and lives in Nashville. She was able to blog during the floods, as her house was higher up. I can’t find the specific post, but at one point, she talked about whole houses worth of furniture by the curb as people cleaned up after the flooding.

There are also accounts from Miami and Homestead after Andrew and New Orleans after Katrina you can find if you look hard enough. I’ve talked with people who lived through Andrew. There’s a certain quiet respect associated with those stories. The demeanor of the people talking about them changes.

Everyone experiences death and loss in life. Not everyone experiences the emotional strain of looking out their window and seeing pictures like this.

I can’t imagine it. I can’t imagine being in New Orleans when the levy broke. I can’t imagine riding out Hurricane Andrew in a boat (as someone I know did). That’s why words are so important. They help us imagine the unimaginable. The pictures above are stunning. Some of the fires pictures are morosely beautiful. While pictures can awe us, only words can really convey what it feels like to be there. And that’s valuable and important.

Here’s hoping none of us ever write words like that.

Have you ever been through something like that? Were you able to record words to describe it?

  1. July 3, 2012 7:44 am

    Chris…thanks for making me pause. Good post.

  2. Pamela permalink
    July 3, 2012 8:54 am

    Those photos are certainly powerful. I was in California for wildfires just a couple of years ago and the descriptions are so complex – – a mix of overwhelming awe (at Mother Nature’s power) and gut-wrenching fear, combined with new sensations – – the acrid smell of burning, the view of a dark ominous sky, the feeling of ash lightly falling onto your skin, the sound of frightened animals (we had horses), and the ultimate sense that you have no control. Now I live in Miami and the fear of hurricanes is pervasive. I guess it’s always something!

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