Today marks the 5th anniversary of the day when winter greeted us early and made its presence known across the region, Friday October 13th 2006. Call it a "surprise storm" or whatever you like, today 5 years ago you woke up to a winter wonderland of destruction.

The storm actually began the day before, that Thursday, but the full effect wasn't felt until the morning after. Many experienced the same things, downed trees, power lines, telephone lines, destroyed homes and cars. They say that when you experience a traumatic or powerful event, you're left with a "flashbulb memory," which Wikipedia describes as "highly detailed, exceptionally vivid 'snapshots' of the moment and circumstances in which surprising and consequential (or emotionally arousing) news was heard." I'm sure that many have flashbulb memories from that day and the week that followed. I still have a very vivid recollection of that week.

We were lucky

I was in high school then, and had already been given that Friday off due to some reason unrelated to the storm. Of course, the school would have been closed anyway. I opened my window shades to find the entire outside world filled with snow and ice, and also a tree that had all but fallen in my front yard. The tree had leaned to the point where if it had fallen, it would have damaged our house. Across the street my neighbors gigantic weeping willow tree had also fallen, something I thought I'd never see in all my life. We were lucky, once the power had gone out, we had a back-up generator that we could use. Many in our neighborhood did not, however, so we allowed others to use it to keep food from spoiling and basements from flooding. Extension cords lined our yards as we shared the little electricity that we had. We used candles to see at night, and hoped that the heavy snow would not collapse our roof like it did to so many homes.

Hundreds of downed trees

I remember driving to my grandmother's house only to find what had to be hundreds of downed trees making almost an impassable obstacle in our path. The whole experience still seems surreal to me. That Sunday, I remember listening to the Bills game in my car; it was the only way. They lost to the Lions, Roscoe Parrish dropped a touchdown pass. In that same car I listened to the Sabres, who were talking about "lifting" the city with a few wins. They did, beating Detroit in a shootout and then taking down the Rangers. Flashbulb memory, remember?

The power had been restored in most places, except on my street. My family and I were eating out at a chinese restaurant when we heard the news that we regained power. We drove home and just like that, it was all over. Was it all a dream? That's what it seemed like.

Neighbor helping neighbor

We're lucky to live in WNY. I know, that's the first time you've heard those combination of words. We don't have to experience the many natural disasters that other parts of our country and the world have to deal with. But the October Storm was the closet thing to a natural disaster that I hope we'll ever see. It was completely unexpected, and did more damage than a simple snow storm ever should. However, it brought our community together. Neighbor helping neighbor, with the common bond of lost power and looming clean up.