“I can’t get in my house. There’s a tree blocking my house.”

09/17/2010 12:22 PM |


We woke up this morning to the unending chop of helicopters, but whether they were news or National Guard we could not tell. My girlfriend and I missed the brunt of last night’s storm: she, on the subway; I, in a Midtown screening room. But both of us had experience with tornado devastation; we both came from neighborhoods in southern Brooklyn hit by the famous 2007 twister.

We had moved to Park Slope to escape tornados. But they followed us.

I came out of the screening on 57th Street with a text message from Ben Sutton. “U ok over there in tornado territory?” Which I answered with a phone call: what the hell are you talking about? He filled me in with what he could gather from Twitter: felled trees, general devastation from across the city, but especially in Park Slope. I called my girlfriend. She didn’t answer. I got on the F train.

Park Slope felt calm when I got there, except for the whirr of chopper blades overhead. It wasn’t until I got to 11th Street, west of Fifth Avenue, that I saw the flashing lights of emergency vehicles. Thin branches littered the sidewalk, and thicker ones took up parking spots. Several cars had plastic sheeting in lieu of rear windows. At the end of the block, a worker operated a long mechanical arm with a claw at the end, snatching broken branches and crunching them into a dumpster. Cars backed-up the block, realizing they couldn’t cut through. Neighbors gawked and gossiped. At first I thought this just looked like the work of strong winds; I had surveyed tornado wreckage before, far worse than this. Then I noticed that the tops of several trees had been snapped off like the bottoms of asparagus stalks. As I waked back up the street, a man announced to me or to no one in particular, “My garbage-can lid was half a block away from my house.”

At home, my girlfriend was not crushed underneath an apartment-penetrating tree. The cat was not eating her face. They were watching Saved By The Bell, she was drinking wine. I figured out the tornado theme from The Wizard of Oz on the guitar, then texted a friend on the other side of the neighborhood. “Flatbush avenue looked pretty bad by me,” she wrote. “Lots of broken trees on 5th avenue too. As a side note, Twister is on TBS right now. Talk to you tomorrow.”