It is one of those things the drones on in your head for so long that you forget when it started. Time seems to be both suspended and rushing by. It steadily drums, tinkles, patters and beats on a hundred different surfaces. Day and night, without ceasing. It is excusable that I don’t remember when it started.
What messes with the time is the disappearance of daylight. This is hard for Atlantans who enjoy gorgeous sunny days. It was so overcast that high noon looked like 8:00 PM. We had two times of day: twilight and night.
And all through both was the rain.
It has been cool, thanks to the lack of sunlight, so I had the air conditioner off and the windows open. The rain would wake you in the night. You heard it all day long yet the sound of it would suddenly wake you out of a sound sleep. Some raw instinct, some inner disaster monitor, would activate.“Hey, it’s still raining. You better make sure the cave is not flooding!”
A peek out the window and, sure enough, rain was falling just as hard as it was when you had gone to bed. As I lay there my girl says “Is it still raining?” It woke her too.
The rain had taken over time.
Between the sleepless nights and the dismal days, life itself became soporific. Rain sapped the energy out of everything. Even the cats spent all day and night sleeping. Nature protected us, blessed us with the ability to relax and sleep through the rain. We screwed that up with lights and TV and jobs.
We Atlantans always greet and talk to one another. Of course, the rain became the subject of these chats. At first is was a joke.
“Hey do you think it will rain? Ha, ha, ha.”
But the tone soon changed to be more like two people speaking of a mutual friend with cancer.
“Do you think it will ever stop? I hope so because it is seeping into my foundation.”
It beat down upon us all. Soon we started cringing like World War II Londoners cowered in the Underground during the blitz. Each raindrop became a bomb hitting the city.
The rain would not stay outside. I have never seen it be humid and rain at the same time. I think the air itself was just too damp from the constant soaking. The rain slipped into the house like an invisible assailant. Towels would not dry. The carpet felt vaguely damp. The air conditioner could hold it off. The only problem was it had to be down so low that the kids were turning blue. Not a good color for them. Of course, as soon as someone opened the door, a tsunami of humid air rolled in. We sat damp and miserable inside the shelter that was supposed to protect us from the elements.
Damp, depressed sleeplessness was not enough for us. The rain had to make sure we were also worried. The bad news started rolling in.
A water treatment plant was flood allowing sewage to flow into the Chattahoochee. The junction of two major interstate highways downtown was under water. Water rose half way up a roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia. A two-year old was swept fromher father’s arms.
The rain had made our lives miserable. Now it looked as if intended to start taking them.
Schools throughout the area canceled classes, not because of the danger of flooding, but because of the “hurricane level” rain. My employer told everyone to leave early and get safely home. Order had been destroyed. The chain of command in our lives had abandoned us. It became every man for himself as the city sank.
It was so overcast that high noon looked like 8:00 PM. We had two times of day: twilight and night.
I woke again in the middle of the night. This time, for a different reason. Something was different, something was wrong. Then I realized, I could not hear the rain. I peered out the window and, sure enough, it had stopped. I pessimistically assumed it was a brief interlude. I went back to sleep.
When I woke for the day, it was still silent. I looked out again and I could see it had not rained all night. As the day progressed, the wonderful, beautiful Georgia sun broke through and time, order and life were restored.
At lunch I had to get out and drove down to park near the lake and enjoy some sun. Apparently others had the same idea as there was a mass exodus from the parking lot.
The kids won the school lottery. School was closed due to weather and here they were out in a park on a sunny, 80 degree day. Of course the parents had to take time off for the kids they did not expect to be home. The parks were full of people. There was a steady stream of runners and joggers along every street. It is easy to understand why the Aztecs poured their hearts into their love for the sun.
How quickly we came out of the horrific time. We hit the ground running and got right back in the groove of life in out beautiful city. The memories are already receding along with the water. It is a combination of “it’s over, we made it, no sense dwelling on it” and the sheer joy of seeing the sun.
The Great Flood of ’09 will soon fade into “I remember back in 2009…” Then it will disappear into newspaper archives and Wikipedia. It will be trotted out every ten years, or if there is another “rain event.” Then it will be put away from our consciousness until the next time the memory is convenient. People won’t remember that it happened, let alone when it began.
Which makes me feel bad. I lived through it.
But I just can’t remember when it started.