We all have those, “Where were you?” moments in our lives. Now, on the 35th anniversary of the Blizzard of 1978 those of us who lived through it get to reminisce and have a laugh, a cry or just relive a moment from a simpler time when we all pulled together at a very difficult moment.
Ten years ago, the Providence Journal solicited stories of that day from readers and printed some of the best. I submitted mine anonymously since I was a newsroom employee, and a member of the executive board of the Providence Newspaper Guild. I held out little hope of my story getting recounted, but it was deemed one of the best submissions and it ran in that anniversary issue. Below is how I spent my Feb. 6, 1978.
It all began in mid-December, while playing basketball for Classical High School, I fell and broke both my wrists. The left one in 13 places and just a hairline fracture of the right wrist. Think about that, a high school sophomore walking the school halls sporting two casts, it wasn’t easy, even for a member of the basketball team. The diagnosis was for four weeks for the right wrist and six weeks for the more damaged left wrist.
The week the right cast was supposed to be removed it ended up snowing and my mom wouldn’t chance driving in the storm to my scheduled visit, opting to wait the six weeks for both. I was not amused but took it. Two weeks later, it snowed again and I was denied but was assured they would come off in just one more week. That day, one week later, was February 6, 1978.
We went to school like any other day, even though we were warned a snowstorm was on the way. My only concern was that the casts were coming off and I didn’t care about any stupid snowstorm. However, by midday when they announced they’d be sending us home early, I had a distinct feeling my mom wouldn’t be taking me to get the casts off.
The bus ride from Classical down into Kennedy Plaza wasn’t so bad, it was snowing and accumulating at 1 pm but it wasn’t that bad. Getting a bus in the old bus tunnel that is now the Bank of America Skating Center wasn’t so bad either, we were covered while waiting for the 57 Smith bus. Traffic was backing up though, people were leaving work, school buses were on the streets and the ride from Kennedy Plaza, just to the top of Smith Hill at the State House was an adventure that took nearly an hour.
From there, a ride that normally took 10 minutes tops, took another hour. And we never even reached our bus stop, we bailed out two bus stops before ours and walked the quarter-mile home. That took about 15 minutes and we were soaked when we walked in the door. My first words were, “Let’s go!” To which my mom replied, “We’re not going anywhere,”explaining quite logically that the doctor’s office called an cancelled the rest of the day and no one was traveling anywhere right now, it was just snowing too hard.
Blinded by a combination of testosterone, a little bit of an Irish temper and the fact I’d already been denied twice, I screamed that I’d had enough and I was going to take matters into my own hands. My mother obviously thought I was bluffing until she saw me reach into the draw where she kept her cooking utensils. When I turned, Ginsu in hand, my mom got angry, my sisters were a combination of amused and a little scared and I probably looked like a wild-eyed heroin addict in need of a fix.
It wasn’t easy, but true to its advertising, the Ginsu worked like a charm and sliced off that right cast with only about half as much force as I could muster with a cast hindering me. As I looked at the skinny, pale wrist before me, I could vaguely hear my mom screaming at me that I was in big trouble and looked up to see my sisters staring at me in a combination of horror and awe and it was then I realized I probably acted a little crazily. That’s when I backed down and decided not to cut off the second cast on the more badly injured left wrist.
My mom, always the practical one, overcame her anger and offered up a simple solution, stating, “Good, now you can go out and start shoveling.”