Friday, July 6, 2012

A Week Ago Today

The tree that broke the fence also severed the power line to the Birthplace
Last Friday started out out wonderfully, and ended in devastation.  No doubt some of you have been wondering about damage at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.  There's been a good deal of damage to trees, the fence and what seems to be minor damage to the exterior of both houses.  We've also lost our power line to the property. 

We'll only be able to really judge once the power's back on and we can take a good look around, inside and out, but though the damage will not be either cheap or easy to repair, it does not seem to be major.  We were fortunate.   Psychologically, though, the damage bites quite a bit.

Things have been going well for us at the birthplace, and I woke up in a good mood that Friday.  We'd had a string of successful events, following close on one another, including the Croquet Tournament, the reading and blueberry workshop with Jim Minick, the Pearl S. Buck Birthday Celebration during the Little Levels Heritage Fair, and the Pearl S. Buck Writer's Workshop.

On Friday I finally had a chance to catch up with web site work.  It was bright and sunny, and I was less that thrilled about being stuck inside.  I was updating our web presences, doing the tedious work of adding items to our Amazon store, and updating various other items on our web sites.  Most importantly, I wanted to write full reports for this blog on all the events above, acknowledging my colleagues and our supporters who had done so much work to make recent events the successes they were, whether it was mowing grass, lining up sponsors, cooking, publicizing, arranging, moving furniture, etc.  There are many people I will still take some space to recognize here, eventually.  
But I didn't get it done last Friday because I tend to do tedious tasks first, and I was still listing merchandise on Amazon when the lights in the house started blinking and I was thrown offline.  My niece Tina Brown, entering her senior year in high school, has been up here working as a volunteer, but she couldn't get anything done either, so we decided to go for a walk.  It was still early, so it was nice and sunny.

I don't know what made me notice the rapidly blackening sky in front of us after we'd been walking a while, but I told my niece we needed to head home right away.  We didn't make it!  I was looking for a ditch to hunker down in when a neighbor beckoned us in her home to ride out the foul weather.  I'm glad she did!  Nearly half the tree in their front yard went down in the wind!  When we got home after things had calmed down, I saw the apple tree in our yard had also come down, taking with it phone lines to the house.  Who knows what it would have done to us. 

With no radio, television, or internet, it would be nearly a week before I would realize how widespread and severe the devastation has been, but it was immediately apparent the next morning that it was bad.  There are families that lost their homes, and facilities such as the Elementary School in Hillsboro that lost their roof.

The damage at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, aside from a broken window, appears to be external.  Of course every day the power is out and we are unable to run the dehumidifiers we run the risk of additional problems in the basement due to the moisture.  These include mold and damage to the plaster.  Restoration of power may take a while, though.  In addition to the general outage, the power line to the Birthplace itself appears to have been knocked down.

We'll only know for sure once the power is on and we can inspect in the basement, attic and dimly lit places the full extent of damage.  Speaking personally, I confess that it's frustrating.  We've worked hard on our fundraising activities lately.  How much of what we've earned will now go do cover damage?  Similarly, you may have noticed in this blog that we work closely with the schools in our community to help advance the education of our students.  So a setback like damage to a school facility hurts us all.

But we'll come through.  May marked 38 years since the Birthplace opened its doors to the public.  These storms are not enough to dampen our determination to continue our efforts for 38 more, or as long as there is work to do.  Thank you for your support! 
The tent set up for the Croquet Tournament and Birthday Celebration with a gutter pulled off the Sydenstricker House

One of the old Maples split and downed the power line across the road.

Quite a few damaged and uprooted plants, as well as collapsed supports in the garden.

A collapsed grape vine trellis.

Part of the roof of Hillsboro Elementary School, in the playground.


  1. Hi, Michael,

    I'm sorry to hear about the damage to the Birthplace, and to Hillsboro in general. It took everyone a while, without the benefit of communication with the outside world, to realize how large an area was affected...and how long it would take to fix it all.

    I was outside on a run when the storm started, too--a mile from home! We have particular insights into the storm's force ;) Glad you and your niece were okay.


    1. Thanks so much! Wow! That must have been frightening. We were much closer to home, but still had to take refuge at a neighbors. I just got back to town today. Most people seem to have power now, but wow! Still so much damage. I didn't realize how wide an area was hit until I drove home to Richmond and back via different routes. I'm glad you are okay, too.

  2. My eyes popped right open when I read the caption for the last photo, in the fact of the matter is that, thats part of a freaking school roof!!! Jesus, I hope everything is alright for you Michael. God bless, and I hope you guys bounced back 100% despite the minor damage.

    -Carlos Hernandez
    Tree Trimmer Queens

    1. Thank you! The worst of it for me personally was the fear, especially being caught in it with my niece outside. I am very grateful. Damage at the Birthplace, well, it's hard to complain when you see what happened at the school and elsewhere. It's just a financial hardship for an organization on a shoestring budget, but our community is strong. We'll pull through! Thank you very much for the good wishes.