The “Duval Gene”

Oct 31 by

Hurricane Sandy has passed.  New York City was hit especially hard with flooding and destroyed property, and now faces pollution in the floodwater.  Atlantic City’s historic boardwalk was washed out to sea, and the tall ship HMS Bounty was sunk off the coast of North Carolina.  Lives were lost and property was destroyed all along the East Coast.  Schenectady experienced a drizzle and some wind.

I had stocked up on instant just-add-water ramen noodles, only to remember that if the power went out I would have no way to eat them.  Friends of mine were smuggling food out of West dining hall in Tupperware containers, coffee cups, and once we all received an email encouraging us to take food from the dining halls, in plain sight.  My roommates and I had discussed the possibility of the room flooding since the top bunk is technically at ground level, and we agreed that we would use our mattresses as islands for our possessions when the water was three feet high.  We were taking it with a grain of salt and a light attitude, but in the back of our minds we were preparing for a worst-case scenario.

My mother, Debbie, told me before the storm to “Use the Rogers side of your brain, not the Duval.”  My father’s side of the family have always been a bit eccentric, and we like a bit of excitement from time to time.  My father, Duncan, is a firefighter, like his uncle and his grandfather were.  Even before he graduated from the fire academy he would follow firetrucks on their way to a fire, and the firemen knew him by name.  When my parents and I were on Star Island  in the summer of 2006, eight miles out from the coast of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, my father stood on the porch of the 130-year-old Oceanic Hotel watching a microburst come in on the horizon.  Microbursts are very powerful, very fast thunderstorms signified by high-speed winds.  They can be very dangerous.  The employees on the island hurried my mother and I, along with 200 other people, into the underworld of the hotel.  But not my dad.  As the microburst struck, the 80-foot-tall, three-foot-wide flagpole in front of the hotel began to bend.  The windows smashed in on the West side of the building, where an infirmary would be set up after the storm, spraying glass into the room and, in a few cases, people.  The cottages strewn around the 200-acre island would each take similar beatings.  The gazebo on the front lawn would be sucked out of the ground and thrown across the island.  My dad was out in this hellstorm.

My dad and I, camping this past Summer. I think I had just cracked a lame joke.

There was a boat coming into the harbor that day, as there usually are.  Six years later the HMS Bounty would stop in at that same harbor and the crew would visit Star Island, and a few months after that, that ship would sink off the coast of New Jersey because of Hurricane Sandy.  As of right now, the Coast Guard is still searching for Captain Robin Walbridge.  The boat in the harbor in 2006, however, docked under incredibly strenuous circumstances.  The microburst had really begun to pick up, with incredibly powerful winds coming lightning fast from the sea.  And of course, there was the actual lightning coming in from the sea.  My father ran to the end of the island’s stone pier and to the end of the wooden dock with a few other men to make sure that the boat docked and that the family on it made it safely to the hotel.  I think he felt like it was his job, even if I’ve never really asked him about that day.  But you know, it really sticks out to me as one of the times where I could really see why my dad does what he does.

I can tell you my mother wasn’t happy that he wasn’t in the basement with us.  But that Duval gene kicked in.

Hurricane Sandy hit Schenectady like a wet noodle.  We had steady rain and steady wind for a day, no more.  Things were just kind of moist for a while.  We saw footage of floods, powerful gale-force winds, power outages and a crane collapsing in New York City.  Before she arrived, at about 3:30, my friends and I took one last trip to Reamer for supplies.  The bookstore had closed a half hour earlier, unbeknownst to us, but we took the opportunity to walk through the Gardens on our way back to our dorm.  The wind was whipping the American and Union College flags, the clouds were moving through the sky at tremendous speeds, and it began to rain.  We made it back to Davidson just as the rain really picked up, and branded ourselves “amateur storm chasers”.  The excitement we had hoped for, however, just never came.

That night, my dad worked his shift at the fire department in Framingham, Massachusetts.  Duty called.

I had Skyped with my mother and father the night before, and when my mom told me to “use the Rogers side of your brain, not the Duval”, I looked at my father.  To start, he was giving my mother such a look, the closest I could come to describing it would be something along the lines of a really pissed-off Mr. Bean.  But then he looked at me, and we shared a cheeky smirk.

“But mom,” I said, “how else am I supposed to get firsthand coverage for my blog?”

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Cam '16

Cam Duval was born and raised in Framingham, Massachusetts, a town close to a half hour from both Worcester and Boston. Cam is a member of the Union College Class of 2016 and is majoring in Anthropology and minoring in the Russian Language. Cam is on WRUC 89.7FM Radio Union College executive board and lives in ARTS Theme House.

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2 Comments

  1. Jasmine Laffin

    This is great Cam!

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