Think that you have a good excuse for not completing that SAS users group conference paper, technical article, or SAS Press book chapter? Well, whatever your excuse is, I’ve got a bigger one. Really!
Things at the office are so busy that you need to take work home? I can do better. Kids out of school for the summer and you need to spend more time with them? Try again. You’ve met that special somebody and your social life has picked up so that you just don’t have the time. Not even close. Traveling out of the country on summer vacation? Good, but I’ve still got you beat!
At about 10:30 on the night of June 29th, a severe thunder storm packing winds of up to 80 miles per hour barreled into the Washington, DC area. We lost power, so I climbed the five steps from the family room, crossed the foyer, went into the kitchen and found the emergency candles and matches. I could hear the rain and all sorts of small branch debris thrashing the house. As I got the second candle lit, the whole house shook as a 100-plus-foot oak tree fell completely across the back yard, through the roof from the plate glass window at the back of my living room, across the living room, across the foyer and projected forty feet into the front yard. It cut the house in half and missed me by eight (8!) feet. Some of the large branches crushed the two bathrooms in the top floor of my split level, and destroyed two of the four bedrooms. Other branches decapitated the furnace and hot water heater and punched a hole in the living room wall into the laundry room.
Despite the violence, destruction, and debris—mammoth twisted branches, hanging wires, shredded plywood, severed ceiling joists, jumbles of drywall, and mounds of insulation—nobody was hurt. We kept our heads, gathered important things—car keys, cell phones, and one confused dog—and evacuated to a neighbor’s house 20 minutes later when the storm’s fury finally abated.
Early the next morning, an army of wonderful neighbors descended upon the wreckage to help us salvage important things—clothes, photo albums, treasured books, electronics, etc. One of the things we were able to recover from my upstairs office was the computer containing the original draft-in-progress of my latest SAS Press book. It was unscathed, but covered in a layer of insulation dust. We gingerly unhooked it and passed it over the debris in the hallway, down the wreckage-laden steps, under the great tree trunk in the foyer, and out the side door. Like many of the other possessions, it took up temporary residence in a neighbor’s basement.
The succeeding three weeks were a blur of activity as I worked with the insurance company on the property damage and possession losses, talked to a contractor about rebuilding, searched for a home to rent for the next nine months, had the surviving belongings packed out to be stored in a warehouse, and had the massive tree trunk removed from the house. Tending to those issues and more proved to be rather time consuming.
So, there you have it. I couldn’t work on my new SAS Press book because a tree crushed my house. Can you top that? Oh, I certainly hope not!