Exactly a month ago, Hurricane Ida hit us. Hard.
We realized we were under siege thanks to my son Rivaan, who was panic-stricken at the extreme rain. There were repeated warnings on the phone to “go to the basement, NOW!” and Rivaan was frightened at the raindrops hammering at our door like they were hailstones.
I was not really worried because we were in a no-flood zone, but we descended into the basement and curled up on the couch to watch TV anyway. I thought it would comfort my frightened boy. The basement was bone-dry then.
At some point, Rivaan jumped off the couch and I heard a sound that made my heart stop. Squelch.
Water had begun creeping into our basement, and in about 30 minutes, it was a foot high, threatening to become level with the electric sockets. I was devastated, not only because we might have been electrocuted but because it had been barely a year since we had moved into our new home.
My husband Vaskar and I were so upset at the flooded basement and the devastation it would wreak that we could barely look at each other, lest one of us break down. But when the weather is nasty, people are the sunshine.
“When the weather is nasty, people are the sunshine.”
Our neighbors saved us.
In the middle of the storm, we looked out the window to see Dave and Linda, drenched, trying to fix our pipe.
Jeff from four houses down switched off the basement power just when the water threatened to enter the electric sockets, while Vaskar and I were busy calling restoration services, who were, not to sound corny, flooded with calls.
» READ MORE: A timeline of Ida's destruction
Nikky and Steve came to our door with a shop vac.
The only other Indian family on our street sent dal bhat (a delicious combo of lentils and rice). Comfort food. Made on short notice by Tripti and Diwakar. Bless their hearts!
The water was drained by 6 a.m. the next day. All that was left was a squelchy carpet, soaking toy boxes, damaged furniture, and tons of soggy cartons. Heartbreakingly, books we had collected over 20 years were destroyed. My eyes filled up as I spotted farewell cards with long, emotional messages from Vaskar’s former colleagues, now no more than illegible smudges of ink.
Given the devastation all around the region, restoration contractors didn’t have the crew to spare, and there was a real danger of mold spreading.
Jeff took the day off and owned the devastation. For five hours, he helped us haul containers and the soaking carpet from the basement to the driveway. His wife Katie put out a message to their church friends, and like angels, strangers came to help. Holly and Craig hauled away furniture. Dan came with his teenage son and took stuff out. And Brian taught us how to cut off the wall well above the water level.
Meanwhile, Katie was busy preparing a meal for all of us and looking after our two boys along with four of hers.
All weekend, friends kept arriving to help. Vaskar’s ex-colleague Suman dropped in, and Zaka came all the way from New Jersey. My friend Ruchi arrived with more comfort food: e aloo paratha, pav bhaji, and samosas. She helped me organize the stuff that had been salvaged from the basement. On Sunday, even more friends came.
There’s one thing this experience taught me: Friends don’t ask you if you need help. They just show up. Ida gave us a lot of grief, but I am filled with gratitude. Ida has given us friends for life.
Archana Sharma Upadhyay is a Doylestown resident.