27 February 2009

Remembering the Blizzard of ’78

As February departs, I'm shoveling through my memories of New England's famous "Blizzard of '78." This was one of the milestone events of my childhood, mostly because it comes with a handy year attached to it, so I can figure out exactly how old I was and my grade in school.

I was attending junior high school, far enough away that I took an MBTA bus most of the way home. And that Monday afternoon, the bus didn't come. The snow was already falling with a heavy determination, and the bus didn't come.

So finally I set out on foot. There was really only one turn to make between the bus stop and my house, and the route took me straight through a village of shops and offices, so I had no chance of being lost and frozen in the woods. Still, the snow was falling thick and fast.

Yes, though I may sound like a generational stereotype saying it, I walked a mile and a half home from school through the worst blizzard in decades. And yes, there really was a very steep hill at the end. But I knew that going in. What ticked me off, as I recall, was the bus letting me down. Once I warmed up inside, all was well.

Except the snow kept falling. And falling. My parents and brother all made it home, and the snow kept falling. As we went to bed that night, it was obvious that Tuesday would be a snow day off of school.

As it turned out, school was canceled for something like eleven days. Scores of cars had stalled on the highways, and some of their drivers either froze to death or died of carbon monoxide poisoning as they left their engines running and the snow covered their exhaust pipes. But all that seemed remote, somewhere inside the black and white TV.

That hill where I lived became impassable for cars, and so was the street at the bottom, so we kids made it into a sledding run. One TV channel even took pictures of my neighbors going down for the news.

The Blizzard of '78 wasn't the last storm of the year, either. If I recall right, in the first week of May we had a sudden heavy snowfall that did a lot of damage to the budding trees. My town lost so many days of school that the school department came up with a horribly complex plan to shorten class sessions but add more to each day. That in turn prompted a student walkout. It was quite a year.

TOMORROW: Did the Blizzard of '78 kill the Teen Titans? No, seriously. It's an interesting publishing story. Come back!

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