Here in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts, when the gas explosions and fires occurred on the late afternoon of September 13, 2018, it was dramatically revealed that we are not as divided as we seem. From Lawrence triple deckers to buildings on the Phillips Academy campus, from William Madison Wood's mansion Arden to every house on Poor Street, including my own -- all of us are connected underground by the gas lines!
I am aware that many of the workers who have come here for this massive restoration operation are from the mid-term election's swing states (Columbia Gas of Ohio, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Columbia Gas of Virginia, say their trucks and their hardhats). I realize that many of them may be supporters of Trump. That's all the more reason to be friendly and nice to them and to witness that they are friendly and nice back. I can think of no other better way to help close the gap.
To recap: About 4 o’clock on that Thursday afternoon, I had just begun to cook dinner, heating water to steam broccoli when the gas burner slowed, then petered out. The piano turner had just finished up work on the Steinway grand that an Andover friend had recently allowed us to move from her house to ours, because she wasn’t using it and knew Bob would.
Bob determined that the problem wasn’t the stove; it was lack of gas pressure. So he called the gas company to report the problem. Since it wasn’t an emergency he chose the option for non-emergency and was put on hold for twenty minutes. When someone finally responded, he was told a tech would be sent over. At about that moment, we realized we were hearing multiple sirens and the sound of helicopters circling overhead. “Do you think the sirens have anything to do with this?” Obviously, the person who had answered the phone at Columbia Gas was at some remote location and just as clueless as we were. Shortly after that, we got the robocall telling us to evacuate. We stepped outside, walked around the neighborhood, looked up North Main Street in the direction of Lawrence, trying to see what was going on. We had shut off the gas inside the house and at the meter. We could see the grid-locked traffic. Why would we choose to get into that snarl? We did not evacuate. Soon enough, the electric power was shut off, but we still stayed put.
“We have our own Puerto Rico now,” Bob said, referencing Hurricane Maria and its aftermath.
“Puerto Rico with snow,” I retorted, knowing intuitively that this was going to take a long, long time to get set right.
Meanwhile, we found it “interesting” to learn that they broke down the doors of evacuated houses in Lawrence to check that the gas had been turned off. In our neighborhood, we watched them going place to place with a locksmith.
To be continued.