September 1998

Sunday and Monday, Sept. 6 and 7, 1998, and the few days following were like none other in central New York. In the early morning of Labor Day, Monday, Sept. 7, the derecho which came known to be called The Labor Day Storm shook Onondaga County and surrounding areas.


In my opinion: CNY is lucky when it comes to weather. That’s not to sound smug. What I mean by lucky is that we upstate New Yorkers don’t really have to worry about frequent drastic instances of nature we can’t control. The frequent arguments include rants about winter being too long and there’s too much snow.

People will forever complain about the amount of snow that falls, and the majority of these winter naysayers have yet to move away. Hypocrital whining has evolved into white noise. No amount of snow can compare to such natural duress brought on by tornados, hurricanes, and the like.

Cue Hurricane Irene’s unwelcomed and destructive appearance in 2011. Mother Nature, you’re drunk. Go home. Oh, wait…

After the bludgeoning, I headed down to Hunter, NY, to assist with cleaning up. Wear clothes you don’t care about, it was told to us.

The region looked like a surrealist’s painting. Streets and sidewalks that once lay flat throughout the community of rolling hills were now cracked, pavement separated from the ground, and uplifted sidewalk/street sections broke down the center to and met at a point.

Sewage, mud, and septic tank contents coated the ground like brown icing. Homes were in left in various conditions, safe to inhabitable. The residents were in the best spirits as they could have been.

Yet, a baker’s dozen years before we feared, albeit temporary panic. What yielded was minute anxiety compared to our Catskill, downstate counterparts.

I also had never seen my father jump into action as quickly.

The derecho entered very early in the morning. The rain and wind started simply as the equivalent to knocks on the door, but the kind of knocks you didn’t want to open the door for. Instead of dealing with the [type of occupation] salesman, the politician or lackey looking for signatures, the religious folk, or whoever, it was best to turn off the television and pretend as if no one was home.

But the severity of the storm escalated. The rain picked up. The lightning flashed. The thunder clapped. The wind whipped up and grew stronger to the point where the whistle changed from panflute to the intensity of a train’s.

Cue my father. Get up!, he yelled, not sugarcoating the concern. Go down to the basement!

What I do remember is quickly a beloved childhood stuffed animal. There was no telling of how severe this storm was going to be. In the midst of panic and while fearing the worst, there was justification with instinctively grabbing some semblance of positive memories.

The four of us sat silently in the dark basement. It wasn’t after the storm had passed my father explained himself a bit. He didn’t spend a lot of time in Nebraska but briefly went to university there before moving back to northern New Jersey. He said the winds there were fierce, and when the kettle whistle wind sounds more like a howl from a train — get your ass to safety.

My father and I spent some quality time walking around the neighborhood, checking out the damage and if anyone needed help with anything. My father has never been afraid to lend a hand, and this situation was definitely no different.

The power was out throughout our suburban commune. Homes, vehicles, and other possessions were affected, but trees and other weaker natural aspects took the brunt of it all. We ended up losing five or six trees that year. A few exterior issues were noticeable.

My bowl cut was still intact. (See below.)

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Sophomore year of high school was postponed for three days. At the same time, the storm extended summer, but it prolonged the inevitable. Tenth grade wasn’t a bad year, especially since my teeth were relieved of braces and I decided to get contacts.

As terrible as it was to have to endure something unfamiliar as the storm, the neighborhood still speaks highly of the few days. We had a heck of a lot of fun. There was no thought of a resurgence. As previously stated — this storm was a rare one. It was a freak occurrence.

So, it’s 1998:

  • Cellphones were just starting to take off as a thing.
  • Video game consoles were in their fifth generation:
    • Nintendo 64
    • PlayStation
    • Sega Saturn
  • Some music that came out that year:
    • Beastie Boys, Hello Nasty
    • Beck, Mutations
    • Big Pun, Capital Punishment
    • Elliot Smith, XO
    • Garbage, Version 2.0
    • Jay-Z, Vol. 2 … Hard Knock Life
    • Kid Rock, Devil Without a Cause
    • Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
    • Marilyn Manson, Mechanical Animals
    • Massive Attack, Mezzanine
    • Placebo, Without You I’m Nothing
    • Outkast, Aquemini
    • Pearl Jam, Yield
    • Refused, The Shape of Punk to Come
    • Rob Zombie, Hellbilly Deluxe
    • Smashing Pumpkins, Adore
  • Movies in 1998:
    • What a great year for movies. Too many to list. Google it.

776a8fc9-129a-4c9d-ab0c-de9dadbfb123Transitioning to what present youth would whimsically refer to as life off the grid or an effing nightmare wasn’t bad.

Face it, change is inevitable. I’ve put up resistance numerous times. I still do. The concept of time isn’t voluntarily learned. Even as a mid-teen, the rotating hands of a clock didn’t [seem to] have as much momentum as they do now.

We were always outdoors. Not waiting for AOL to buzz and hiss for what seemed like forever was not a big deal. Not having lamp posts made the neighborhood extremely dark, which was perfect for rounds of flashlight tag or Ghost in the Graveyard.

Importantly, the neighborhood never felt more like a family. We’d eat meals together (the food had to be used up before it went bad) — I ate 16 slightly larger than saucer-sized pancakes one morning — and we’d have community bonfires at night. There were no worries. The majority of people in our part of the neighborhood — our borough, whimsically — of the development was present, laughed while seated in a circle beneath the stars.


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