Site contents copyright 2004-2009 Michelle Hakala except where otherwise noted.

National Novel Month Winner
Exercise #320 Prep

Exercise #320: Prep
Posted 5/10/09 - 6/10/09

Each person was asked to submit a “wow” moment. This is something surprising which shocks you into the reality of the moment. Here are the submission from Desk Drawer listmembers. Some of these are graphic, so use caution.

Submitted by Sue Levy:
1. On a night when people were letting off fireworks everywhere, I discovered a dog cowering in absolute terror from all the bright lights and explosions. Other dogs could be heard howling in distress.

Submitted by Anna Edmonds:
1. Many years ago my mother, sisters and I were sitting at the kitchen window enjoying a violent thunderstorm - always a favorite pastime. The wind was howling and rain coming down in diagonal sheets while lightning flashed almost non-stop and thunder rattled the windows. As we sat with chins in cupped hands enjoying nature's fury, we watched in stunned silence as the tall oak tree directly in front of the window began to bend in the wind, bend some more, bend even further, and finally cracked in half, crashing to the ground.

2. Years later my mother woke my younger sister and I in the middle of the night, calling us into our other sister's bedroom. They sat on the bed staring out her large window at the sky. What they had first thought was heat lightning turned out to be an extremely rare display of the northern lights - we lived in Maryland. We sat watching for over an hour, mesmerized by the greenish white aurora dancing across the heavens, before it began to fade.

Submitted by Jo Best:
1. Vermont suffered a horrific ice storm in January, '98. Snow and ice are common to this north country but not until I took a drive through the lowlands of the Champlain Islands did I realize the severity. Tree tops in forested areas were gone. Then later I noted the same throughout the hills nearer my home. Since then research has shown that most trees survive. Nature has superb healing powers.

2. Most people were stunned by the havoc caused by Hurricane Katrina. When I traveled along the Mississippi coastline in Spring of '09 the extent of damage really hit home. Where once were majestic homes and inns, rugged looking foundations sprouting twisted wiring and debris lined the street across from the ocean. Vacant lots with empty swimming pools, stone steps leading nowhere or brick fireplaces looked out of place. The hurricane happened in '05 yet I felt as if it was only yesterday.

Submitted by Susan Frank:
1. On January 28, 1986, my students and I stepped out of the classroom to watch the Challenger launch. We had been watching the countdown on the classroom television and ran back in to see if what we had seen with our eyes was real. That was the first shock.

2. The second shock was that the mission proceeded in spite of the fact it was known the O-rings were flawed and the weather was too cold for a launch.

Submitted by Tyger Schonholzer:
1. Of all the things I can't forget about the incidents of 9-11: The people who jumped out of the windows to get away from the fire. They were only dots on the TV screen but they are etched into my memory. I wonder if I would bravely jump to my certain death to avoid dying in the flames.

2. I like to watch hummingbirds and their tiny-ness intrigues me. What I really find amazing though is the sound their wings make when they buzz by. They sounds like something much bigger or more dangerous.

Submitted by April Toche:
1. When I was younger, I was living with a boyfriend. His mom was out of town, so he had a little get together. He, as well as many of the other people at the party, got stinking drunk. He became upset about something, and he somehow managed to cut his arm up good. I remember him being in the bathroom, and me trying to wake him up, trying to stop the bleeding, and trying not to lose it. I couldn't call an ambulance, because then we would be in trouble for having the party, and being drunk (I didn't want his mom to get into trouble mostly) I don't think I have ever been that shocked or scared before in my life. I have since, but that is another story.

Submitted by Sally French:
1. The number of misspelled and mispronounced words on the TV news amaze me.
What happened to teaching kids how to spell and pronounce the English language? The number of errors a day influence more than me. This affects the poorly educated, newly educated and soon to be educated.

Submitted by Steven Williamson:
1. CBS news has been looking at the effects of the recession on children. I guess I would have thought about it if I spent the time, but there are some families giving up their kids to a family or even strangers until they can get back on their feet.

Submitted by Marge Sallee:
1. When I started teaching in the days of the dinosaurs, it was not uncommon to hear a principal tell us that school was often the safest place for the students to be and emphasize how important that was in the life of a child. In recent years, and especially after Columbine and all of the news about students being seduced by their teachers, I wonder what happened. How did things change so much in one generation?

2. Sunday evening Mother Nature turned savage in the Midwest. In an area called Lake Viking about 50 miles northeast of Kansas City, phenomenally large hail rained down for a solid ten minutes. The hail was the size of baseballs and grapefruit. Monday morning's TV news showed some of the damage. The stones had actually gone through the roofs of some buildings and landed on interior carpets and siding on homes looked like Swiss cheese. One man interviewed on the news showed damage to his house and five vehicles parked outside his home at the time. The wonderful part was his last comment: "You should see how it tore up my garden!' Spoken like a true Midwesterner.

Submitted by Joan Kilgannon:
1. I have 12 geese, 6 males 6 females. Three of my males I hand raised. Three weeks ago one of my females hatched out three goslings. This in itself is strange, as geese breed in Australia in Sept/Oct. Anyway mummy goose didn't have the best parenting skills, and I was about to intervene and remove the babies. That’s where the wow came in, my three ganders took over the tiny little ones, they won't let anyone or anything (including me) near the littlies. They make sure their charges have food and warmth. These same three ganders round up the week-old ducklings and herd them out of the pool, if they think the babies have been in the deep end to long. Small ducks can drown if they stay in water to long, or the pool sides are steep. The deep end of my pool is rather steep.

Submitted by Carlisle:
1. Taking a break from a business trip to Croydon, Surrey in 1980, Barbara and I stayed a few nights at Selsden Park Inn (expansion of Archbishop's hunting lodge, circa 900 AD). After touring the home of Ann Bullen (Boleyn) we picnicked in the shadow of Stone Henge and drove to Salisbury, Wilshire to find a B and B for the night. This was our first trip to England and we often had to make sure we were awake, and breathing. Then we had to stop the car and say WOW! There in front of us was many acres of green velvet surrounding a church whose spire pierced the sky, seemingly carved from a single stone mountain: Salisbury Cathedral.

Submitted by Richard Kirby:
1. Long ago prospectors built a stout cabin high in Galena Canyon in the Sierra Nevada. In summer I backpacked the tough six miles and slept in the cabin. In winter I skied in. The cabin had long ago lost its door and windows, but it was shelter, even in a blizzard. One winter day I found the cabin buried under fifteen feet of snow. The following summer when I hiked to the cabin I saw it was completely flattened, its roof and walls splintered like match sticks. Looking upslope I noticed the forest, too, was flattened, the trees all pointing downhill. An avalanche of unbelievable power had destroyed everything in its path.

I will never forget my feeling of awe at seeing this display of the overwhelming power of nature. It seemed almost to be the supernaturally malevolent. But I learned such events are commonplace in the mountains. Still, for me it is and will always be extraordinary.

2. From the tour bus I walked through an orchard of ancient olive trees, some over 900 years old. Their roots spread out over exposed limestone. I was amazed that they could survive at all with so little soil. But a greater surprise lay just ahead.

 As I emerged from the orchard, suddenly the Pont du Gard came into view, a Roman aquaduct built in 19 B.C. to bring five million gallons of water per day to Nīmes, the largest Roman city in what is now Southern France.

The Pont du Gard is enormous -- 300 yards long and as high as a 16-story building. It was built of precisely cut limestone blocks, most weighing several tons, fitted together without concrete or mortar, and hoisted into position by over 1,000 laborers over a period of three years. Each block of limestone was marked with a number designating its position in the structure. Those marks can still be read today.

I continue to be amazed that the Romans so valued a reliable supply of running water that they raised this graceful structure that has endured floods, wars, and invasions for over 2,000 years, a masterpiece of art and engineering. It remains for me one of the most amazing things I've ever seen.

Submitted by Kristen Hodges:
1. The 2004 tsunami was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the coast of Sumatra. With a magnitude of around 9.2, it is the second biggest earthquake ever recorded. Across Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Africa and Malaysia over 229,866 people were lost including 186,983 dead and 42,883 missing. Imagine the entire population of Orlando, Florida or Plymouth in England or the Sunshine Coast in Australia - completely gone in less than ten minutes. I’m not talking about places. I`m talking about people. Dead and missing, never to be found.

As an Australian, this Tsunami happened in my neighbourhood. The media was saturated with it, as I’m sure was the case in the rest of the world, but there is a particular poignancy when something terrible happens nearby. It seems somehow more shocking. And shocked I was. I cried when I watched the news; heard the numbers; saw pictures of devastation. But then, like every news story, I moved on. There were other things to occupy my mind.

My brother-in-law is a chopper pilot in the Australian Navy. Our Defense Forces were deployed to assist mere hours after the tsunami hit, my brother-in-law among them. After some weeks he returned home, changed. A cheerful, laughing man became a reserved, saddened man. In one quiet conversation he told me about his first time flying over land in Indonesia. Along the re-mapped coastline were unimaginably huge piles of bodies. Not indistinct mounds of bodies as you would expect. Not just bare feet, ringed-hands and odd limbs. He was seeing people. An awkward red-headed woman with a hitched skirt. A tall, thin man whose leg angled away from his body in a way that isn’t possible. The smell took his breath away. Wet, rotting meat. Inseparable from the sight below him yet horrifyingly so. As he relayed this experience with such sadness, it became so real to me. So small in the middle of such a grand scale. This wasn’t far away, it was closer than I had imagined.

Submitted by Em Hailey:
1. At one of the schools I teach in there is a visiting Church of England vicar who takes assembly from time to time. She is a frail, nervous woman, not at all at ease with children and has great problems in holding their attention and in communicating with them. As usual I prepared myself for fifteen minutes of heavy duty yet tactful attempts at keeping the children near me from the wholesale fidgeting and whispering which always accompany her assemblies.

It started badly. The subject was Easter. She had prepared a hopeful talk about eggs, with ambitious props, and what they mean, made her habitual mistake of inviting the children's participation (she cannot easily understand their broadly accented or under developed speech which causes great and inappropriate merriment in spite of our best efforts) and was becoming more flustered by the minute.

Then she spoke about the Resurrection of Christ. Suddenly this plain, shy woman was transformed. She used biblical language, quoting chapter and verse some of which was definitely above the children's heads, and her voice lost its flustered shrillness and strengthened and deepened. For a few moments she held the attention of the entire lower school, children aged from four to seven (some with attention and behaviour problems) who were as transfixed as I was by this transformation. The effect of her emotionally driven faith was a rare thing to witness. I am not religious so I found it all the more extraordinary.

Submitted by Jody Drainville:
1. The ability of the human brain is truly amazing!

My nephew was in a car accident when he was 14. He suffered a traumatic brain injury. His parents were asked not to leave the hospital for the first three days because the doctors did not think he would make it. I went to Michigan to help as he was just waking from a 2 week coma. He was in a diaper, could not talk or eat. He went from giving a thumbs up to answer yes-no questions to drinking through a straw to walking in a walker and using the restroom with assistance in the nine days I was there. The doctors said not to expect much more recovery. I visit every year and am amazed to see so much improvement every time I see him. He graduated from high school when he was 19 on a special diploma, got a job at the Salvation Army and loves it, and yesterday he came to the city where I live, to celebrate his 21st birthday! He does have special needs, but he is healthy, happy, has a great since of humor. and is able to put people at ease about his disability. To me this is a true 'wow' experience.

Submitted by Rachel:
1. Two years ago, our temperate urban area was hit by storms and flash flooding that were described as a once-in-a-century occurrence. Nothing serious weather-wise ever happens where I live, so it seemed to take us all by surprise. The worst flooding hit on mid-Friday afternoon and, totally oblivious to the situation, many parents collecting children from school or daycare or workers knocking off for the weekend headed as normal onto the suddenly deadly streets. It just didn't sink in that something serious was happening.

We lost power for three and a half rainy midwinter days, and I kept up with news via our battery-powered radio. One story which summed up the community's initial lack of awareness of the serious nature of the situation was the radio interview with a local woman that went something like this:

"My son was on the phone to me explaining that he and his girlfriend wouldn't be able to make it home for dinner because of the rain and that they decided they'd better stay where they were. I was pretty annoyed with him because I'd gone to a lot of trouble putting on a roast, and thought it was a flimsy excuse. Then I happened to look up and out of the window I saw a car float past the front of our house . . ."

2. I was 18 when our town experienced a decent sized earthquake. Several people were killed and there was extensive property damage, and at the time it had felt like our two story house was collapsing. (It wasn't.)

However, it was something comparatively small that drove home to me the actual force of the earthquake. That afternoon I'd gone to help out with the clean-up at the pharmacy/chemist shop were I worked part-time. Seeing the floor of our neat and tidy store littered with the various products that had been rocked right off their shelves really hit me. Although it was no closer to the epicentre than my own home, and the building itself had not been significantly damaged, the sheer multitude of items that had fallen visually magnified the effect of the earthquake. Also telling was that only the products on shelves lying on a certain orientation had been affected, items on shelves facing 90 degrees the other way were still upright (providentially the glass jars in the dispensary were aligned on that axis) although the circular dust shadows on their shelves showed how far they had jumped. I can still clearly see that stock-covered floor and those clean white circles on the dispensary shelves.

(As an aside, it was the very practical and down-to-earth attitude of the pharmacist which put things back into perspective, too. As I and some of the other young shop assistants began to gather up the fallen stock, we shared a instinctive feeling that we were merely marking time before an even more devastating quake would hit - after all the world seemed to have turned upside down that morning. Our boss, however, made sure that we not only restored the items to their shelves, but used the opportunity to give the products their regular wipe-down and stock rotation. It certainly reassured us that once the shock wore off, life would continue as usual.)

Back to:

[The Desk Drawer] [Exercise Menu] [Exercises By Type] [Exercises By Number] [Archived Exercises 1-50] [Archived Exercises 51-100] [Archived Exercises 101-150] [Archived Exercises 151-200] [Archived Exercises 201-250] [Archived Exercises 251-300] [FAQ] [Site Map] [Members' Links] [Members' Desks] [Contact Us] [About Us] [Privacy Policy] [Writer's Links] [We Support] [Donations]