PORTLAND, CT -- I spent Monday afternoon holding a laptop, practically willing my friends and loved ones to stay "present" in the electronic world. As the wind howled outside my windows, and the lights gave a couple of ominous flickers, the reports came in: "Power's off." "Trees are down along the street." "Phone battery is low."
I was among the lucky ones. After those flickers, the lights continued to glow here at my home and also at the United Church Center, the Connecticut Conference's offices in Hartford. I didn't need to implement the backup web communications I'd set up anticipating another significant communications breakdown.
But in other parts of the state, media reports describe heartbreaking damage. In addition to the wind-tumbled trees and their captive power lines, storm-strengthened high tides swept ashore all along Long Island Sound. Friends told of hearing the howl of the wind, the snap of falling branches, the crash of a tree on a garage. Newscasters gave notice of two deaths in the state, one, a volunteer firefighter, in the line of duty.
Tuesday the staff of the Connecticut Conference struggled to reach our people and tally the toll. As evening settled, the response has been reassuring. Churches have lost power -- one had a falling tree literally strip its electric meter from the side of the building -- but so far, suffered no serious damage.
But police barricades block access to the hard-hit neighborhoods along the shoreline. In Westport, Green's Farms Congregational Church UCC pastor the Rev. Jeffrey Rider simply said, "Downtown and shoreline community are a mess." Debris litters the coastal walkways. And there are those we haven't reached yet.
At the same time, I'm beginning to hear the good word. The Congregational Church in Brookfield UCC will serve soup to all comers tomorrow. Churches with power have put out the word that they'll be open to charge cell phones and offer a comforting place to be. They're getting to their feet; they're looking around to see the neighbor in need.
Here in Connecticut, our prayers are with the millions who've endured the storm, the people who are grieving those who lost their lives, the residents whose residence can shelter them no longer, the commuters whose route to work lies drowned beneath the waters. Particularly for our hard-hit neighbors in New York and New Jersey, and for the many many more, we ask the aid of our loving God.
The Rev. Eric S. Anderson is Minister of Communications and Technology for the Connecticut Conference UCC.