The Rockport Miracles-Part 4: Episode 14: "The Ballad of Derecho Dan" Continues

Little Dan had always been a deep sleeper. Even the ominous crackling of thunder combined with Rockport’s wailing storm sirens weren’t enough to wake him. Poor Little BD had heard everything and because he was still suffering from the horrors of storm 5.4, the little canine dove even deeper into the motorcycle helmet that served as his bed for the night. Little Dan would’ve slept through the entire storm had a loosened brick from the wall built to protect the Gas & Lube not sailed through the station’s windows.

The shattered window wasn’t enough to wake Little Dan, either. When this same brick knocked over a large acetylene tank and ruptured its safety valve, he finally snapped out of it. The high pitched squeal of gas escaping had opened his eyes just in time to see the tank coming at him like the torpedo that sank the Lusitania. Little Dan dove for cover just in time. The out of control tank upended his cot and barreled through the wooden wall of the Tire Corral. From there it kept on going until it collided with and destroyed the gas pumps carrying Hi-Test and Regular. When gasoline began spouting from the damaged pumps like geysers, Little Dan remembered that he forgot to activate the emergency shut off valve. Within a matter of seconds, the swirling wind and rain had coated the Gas & Lube with gasoline. A catastrophe was about to occur and Little Dan knew it.

His first and best decision was to grab Little BD and run for his life. He knew the underground gas tanks could blow any second. He picked up the motorcycle helmet, but the dog was gone! “BD!! C’mere boy!” he yelled. He could hear the little Boston Bull crying somewhere inside the giant disorganized pile of used tires. Little Dan began peeling the tires away like a madman, to no avail. He couldn’t find Little BD! By then the smell of gasoline began to infiltrate the entire atmosphere of the Gas & Lube. With a thundering crash the entire wall built by the three Joes collapsed under the relentless pressure of the derecho winds. Bricks flew with wild abandon through the shattered windows of the Gas & Lube and one of them smashed a bank of fluorescent lights. The resulting sparks ignited the gasoline droplets that had permeated the air. Instantly, the entire building burst into flames. Even worse, the storm winds had carried gas-tinged rain well beyond the station and into the surrounding neighborhoods. One by one, the houses in proximity to the Gas & Lube began to catch fire!

As bad as things were in that moment, Little Dan had even bigger problems. For starters, he was about to lose his life! His second best idea was to give up looking for Little BD and dive inside the 1966 Dodge Charger that had just received a tune up in Repair Bay #1. There was no time to raise the bay doors so Little Dan revved up the engine as far as it would go and took his foot off the brakes. The Charger crashed through the bay door, shot out into the middle of 150th Street and came to rest on a traffic island. Little Dan was horrified by the sight in his rear view mirror. The Gas & Lube was thoroughly engulfed in flames. The sweat and toil of three generations of his family... gone in a flash! Then, the fire finally found its way to the underground gas tanks. The subsequent explosion was so powerful that it flipped the Charger onto its side. The hundreds of used tires piled in the Tire Corral shot up in the air in all directions. Many were later found covering rooftops and some made it as far as Lake Erie, a half mile away. Little Dan unwrapped himself from his upturned position inside the Charger and cautiously poked his head out of the driver’s side window. What he saw shook him straight down to his bones. The entire station was destroyed but, even worse, parts of the neighborhood closest to the Gas & Lube were in flames. He watched in shock as panicked citizens poured out of their homes in their pajamas and were blown around by the ferocious winds that characterized Rockport Storm 5.5.

Then, just as suddenly as it had started, the storm stopped. The chaotic sounds of sirens and screaming people were all that was left. Little Dan slunk down inside the car and curled up in a ball against the passenger side bucket seat. He began mumbling words that were to become his mantra in the days ahead. “I lost my dad, my mom, my dog, and the Gas & Lube...” He repeated those words over and over again, even after the firemen rescued him and while he was being treated in the Rockport Hospital Emergency Room. Little Dan was too traumatized to understand what was going to happen next...and he still hadn’t the faintest knowledge of the tragic fate that had met his cousin, Maynard Gridley.

© 2019 Scott MacGregor-EOI Media Press Inc.

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Volume 15, Issue 17, Posted 6:27 PM, 09.04.2019