Today was a long day – in fact an extra-long day.
It began at 3:00 a.m. when an explosion in the neighboring city of Melvindale rocked my house.
That big bang was unlike anything I’ve ever heard, or felt, before and thereafter there was a long rumble in the still of the dark night.
I sprang up out of the bed with a start and hit the ground running to see what happened, holding my breath the entire time that it was not nearby and an evacuation would be in order.
With legs that felt like lead, and sleep still in my eyes, I hustled to the front door. Enroute, of course I imagined the worse … a power plant explosion? Or a flare-up at the Marathon refinery which is only about four miles away? Perhaps it was a stray firecracker landed near gasoline in someone’s garage? I’ve been on pins and needles from all the fireworks that have been going off since before Memorial Day, especially of late, given our drought-like conditions.
I switched on the light and opened the front door to see a horizon featuring a bright-orange sky and great plumes of white smoke billowing high into the dark night.
“Oh my God, oh my God” was all I could say.
I stayed at the door about two or three minutes, while watching the lit-up sky and smoke as I kept waiting for the wail of sirens, but didn’t hear any. Why was everything going in slow motion? Thinking I should contact the police or fire department, I raced back to the kitchen, and tried to do so, but my hands were trembling so much that I could not punch in the numbers, long committed to memory. I think I finally got the fire department’s number, but it was busy. I don’t know why I never thought to dial “911”.
Finally, I put on the radio and WWJ’s weather report was on – all was right with the world at 3:09 a.m. or so … that is, the world beyond Downriver.
I hurried back to the front door – a vivid sky and more smoke, but finally there were sirens that were sounding so shrill in the early morn. Finally at 3:18 a.m., WWJ’s traffic reporter and the news anchor said they were both inundated with tipster calls about an explosion, smoke and sirens, then slowly the story began to unfold. At that time, speculation was that the event was an explosion at the nearby Marathon refinery. Soon emotional eyewitness accounts of evacuation and close calls with the burning inferno encompassed the entire newscast.
I finally shut the front door, and made a cup of strong coffee, nursing it as I listened to the details as more first responders appeared on the scene.
It was gripping.
It was horrible.
And, it sure was scary.
I discovered the kaboom was a natural gas explosion after a car ran into the line.
I made and ate breakfast and kept the radio on, as a reporter headed to the scene, giving us more details to help fill in the blanks and bring empathy for those who left the sanctity of their home clutching children and cellphones … and each other. People fretted for their pets which were left behind as they beat a hasty retreat.
Later, when I left for my walk, it was coolish – cardigan weather again. The sky was a mottled gray. I don’t think I heard a single weather forecast, uncharacteristic for me – did they have the meteorologist on during the time I listened to the newscast … or was I just not tuned in to him or her? Was it going to rain, or was it just dark from all the smoke earlier today?
As I headed out, it was a sleepy Saturday morning in the neighborhood. Either everyone had left for the North country for the long holiday weekend, or had rolled over for a second snooze after their sleep was interrupted by the explosion. I stopped to chat with a man hand-watering his flowers in front of his house. We talked about the explosion … and the fear of the aftermath.
I needed that walk to clear my head. I was hoping to walk five miles today, but I guess I didn’t have it in me. However, I am “bearing down” on 350 miles walked thus far in 2016, so I am happy about that because that was my goal for the 4th of July.
The events of the morning made me feel old – I’m sure I lost another five years off my life, and snagged a few more gray hairs. Though I’m not a salt-and-pepper hair color like “Baxter”, the bear from my collection that is featured above, a few more Saturday starts like this one might just make me resemble that ol’ bear.