Recap: Penina invites Shoshana for Shabbos. There’s a wonderful surprise when Ruty shows up for Shabbos.
The chupah was set up outside. Ilan nervously adjusted the carnation on his lapel.
Aunt Mimi wore a light-blue Shabbos gown trimmed with lace at the hem and sleeves. “I sewed it for the wedding,” she told Ilan. Shmuel and Chezky ran over to me. “We’re wearing our Shabbos suits,” Chezky said.
“You look great,” I said.
The guests sauntered over to the rows of wooden seats set up behind the chupah.
When Mr. Slotkin and Mr. Grainer strolled over with their violin and guitar respectively, a hush fell over the crowd as they begin playing a plaintive Shabbos melody and then Ilan strolled down the aisle on the arm of Uncle Nathan.
Next, Chaya Faigy stepped tentatively down the aisle. Her eyes were wide, but a big smile lit her face as she clung to Aunt Mimi’s arm.
At the end of the ceremony, Ilan stepped on the glass, and then Mr. Slotkin’s and Mr. Grainer’s instruments burst into a lively wedding song.
I closed the journal with a satisfied sigh. Ilana approached me. “It’s a good story, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “I wish I could write one like that.”
“My mother doesn’t want me to write.”
“Shani, let’s go ask her. If you want to write, well, writing is the most amazing outlet.”
Together we went to find my mother. She was in the kitchen, sipping coffee and reading the newspaper.
Ilana opened the discussion. “Hi, Aunt Sarah. You know Shani loves to write. I saw some of the poems she used to compose. She told me that you prefer she doesn’t write. Why?”
My mother put down the paper. She had a faraway look in her eye. “Maybe I’ve made a mistake.” She looked at me and then shook her head. “Shani, it’s so hard to know. I want to be the best parent I can be. I want to shield you from the hurts I had.”
“Writing hurt you?” Ilana asked.
“Yes, I loved to write. I used to write books. I showed them one day to a teacher. I was in sixth or seventh grade. The teacher read them and told me they were terrible, and I should not try to be a writer.”
Ilana gasped. “How awful.”
“I didn’t want my Shani to experience that kind of pain. It was so hurtful. I ripped them up and threw them away.”
“That’s awful!” I said.
“I wish I could have read them,” I said.
Ima wiped a tear from her cheek. “Shani, I made a big mistake when I threw them away. But I made another mistake when I wouldn’t let you be who you are. If you want to write, that’s fine. Follow your dream.”
We hugged. I knew I had a story to write…
On Motza’ei Shabbos, March 10, 1888, the Signal Corps weather station in New York (precursor to the present-day United States Weather Service and Agency), telegraphed the following “weather indications” (what forecasts used to be called): “For Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, eastern New York, eastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, fresh to brisk southerly winds, slightly warmer, fair weather followed by rain. For the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, fresh to brisk southeasterly winds, slightly warmer, threatening weather and rain.”
They saw two storms in two different directions, but they didn’t predict any problem from them.
The station’s staff went home to observe their Sunday day off. For 17 hours, there was no one monitoring the changing weather patterns. After midnight, the northern storm picked up energy over the Great Lakes region and brought bitter cold and snow. The southern storm formed over the ocean and then unexpectedly it turned during the night and headed north. It gathered more moisture as it moved along the coast and its winds gained power. The two systems collided, forming one huge storm. The sky on Sunday was dark and foreboding.
The change of weather was sudden. Heavy rains turned to ice. In New England, temperatures dropped to 10 and 20 degrees. Many people were trapped in this wild storm that exploded suddenly. Many described it as a great white hurricane. A blizzard is defined as any storm where snow is accompanied by temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and winds gust at least 35 miles per hour. The Great Blizzard of 1888 had temperatures below zero and winds at 75-85 miles per hour.
An Albany reporter dubbed it ”an ocean of snow.” A Vermont paper wrote: “No paths, no streets, no trains, no moon, no meat, no milk, no paper, no mail, no news, no thing – but snow.”
A young teacher in Vermont noticed that the snow had reached the windowsill of the school and he dismissed the class early. Some of the younger students were shorter than the snow drifts so he tied a rope to each student and attached all of them to himself. He had the older ones lead and he walked each student home. School didn’t resume until three weeks later.
The newly built Brooklyn Bridge was closed, as many worried it might collapse from the storm like the bridge disaster in Dundee, Scotland. Streetcars and most forms of transportation were shut down. Horse-drawn cabs took advantage of the situation and charged $50 to transport people. There were downed wires and there was garbage flying everywhere in New York City.
A train called the New York Flyer left Buffalo at 5 p.m., heading for New York City. The trip was delayed by the storm as the train plowed forward. Two miles outside of Albany, the engineer spotted a giant snowdrift, and he pushed the throttle forward but the train stopped abruptly, toppling the iron stoves used to heat the cars. The train burst into flames. The passengers had to leave the train and travel two miles on foot to Albany. Most were not dressed for the treacherous cold. One passenger, 17-year-old Sara Wilson, was wearing an Empress Eugenie hat with a long, red feather. She grabbed the hat and followed the others off the train. Sadly, she never made it to Albany. She was buried by the snow.
Historians say 400 people lost their lives in the blizzard, but it is believed the number was really higher.
In Connecticut, on the Tuesday after the storm, the older brother of Legrand and Gurdon Chapell set out by sleigh to join the family at Grandma’s. When he arrived, he discovered his little brothers, aged nine and four, were not there. An hour later, every neighbor joined the search for the boys. An older man suggested they use bean poles to poke through the crusted snow to find them. Someone spotted the cap and mittens of one of the boys on top of a snow drift. They assumed the boys were dead.
The man jabbed a few times with the bean pole, and from deep under the snow he heard a cry, “Ouch!” Both boys were uncovered from the snow cave Gurdon had made 24 hours earlier. They were given whisky and plopped into a tub of tepid water and smeared with molasses to ward off frostbite. They survived and lived long lives.
Today, meteorologists use complicated mathematical equations to help predict the weather as part of a process known as numerical forecasting. Numerical forecasting requires powerful supercomputers and tons of observational data from land, sea, and air weather stations around the world.
The Great Blizzard caused many reforms to be enacted. By 1894, all wires in New York City were moved underground and other cities followed this example. Flying debris, garbage, broken glass, and horse manure all endangered pedestrians during the storm. Eventually, a series of tough ordinances were enacted. Containers holding coal, garbage, and other items were banned from sidewalks. Stores and homeowners were required to clean up the streets and sidewalks in front of their property. Also, the idea of building an underground railway system was set in motion and eventually became our current subway system in New York City. In addition, city politicians learned that they had to make a quick and efficient response to future snowstorms. Permanent workers were hired by the city to clean streets, collect garbage, and remove snow. Following the storm, no city would be built that didn’t have detailed emergency plans and workers available to carry them out.
STAY TUNED FOR A NEW HISTORICAL FICTION SERIAL STARTING NEXT WEEK:
A Flight to Remember
By Susie Garber