Metro, Featured Column, Column, Boston

One City, Two Storms

The gate to Alumni Stadium was open, so we took it as an invitation. Spinning up three floors of stairs and rows of bleachers, we made it to the top. Snow was sliding across the enormous dome protecting the field in ripping waves. Snow was in our hair and eyebrows and we looked like frostbitten old men. It was two in the morning and Juno was just beginning.

Some hours earlier, a van with a driver I’ll never know made its way around the city of Boston for a final time, looking to find members of the homeless population to take to the local shelters. The Boston Globe reports that people would be taken off the street even against their will. “We’re not going to let anyone out there in these conditions,” Police Commissioner Billy Evans said. Vans would drive around until midnight, the time when the travel ban would go into effect.

The next night, there was a collective nervous pause on campus as the hours ticked away and there was no announcement of a second closure. When the announcement finally came, there was a loud roar that echoed from the Mods up to Stayer and over to Walsh, like a Brazilian city when a goal is scored during the World Cup. People who hadn’t been cutting loose started and people who had been kept going. The collective nervous pause became a collective roar of energy. It’s something else, isn’t it?—when everyone is running through the halls excited and it’s all about the same exact thing, and everyone is so aware of all being so close on the same wavelength that no one says anything about it.

Everyone meaning Boston College students, because although the storm wasn’t the most devastating in history, it still ranks up there, and shelters across the city worked through the night to keep things together. The director of PR and Communications at Rosie’s Place, Michele Chausse, felt that the smaller shelter she works for was affected atypically. Rosie’s Place stayed open, but didn’t feel overcrowded as the sitting room was opened for people to come in and warm up. Meals were served, while a skeleton crew continued to provide basic services.

Why do we go so crazy over snow days? Start with understanding why people go so crazy over snowstorms: humans are, innately, risk lovers. This is according to Maria Konnikova of the New Yorker, who cites the underlying neural mechanisms that exist in all humans for the obsession with a blizzard like Juno. We thrive off danger. It gets us going.

But it isn’t just the danger that gets the BC student body so rapturous over snow days. It’s the steady compiling of long, winding hours of performance at such a high caliber—the wild race that is college. In strolled Juno, twirling a cane and smoking a pipe, shutting down the school not once, but twice, and for a university that took three extra hours to make a decision whether to stay open after the governor declared a state of emergency, this was no small feat.

For a person with no home, a blizzard brings no roar of joy—it could mean death. And although the Long Island Homeless Shelter closed over three months ago, finding accommodations for all 700 hundred displaced persons has been a struggle. Two weeks ago, a two-story brick building on Southampton Street opened to 100 men, the Boston Globe reports. The hope was to house another 600 people by April. In marches Juno, the nightmare many feared when Long Island shut down all those months ago.

Five more inches are predicted for Friday. A foot for the Bean Pot. There will be no roar across campus for these snowstorms; no early morning walks to the top of Alumni. Classes will be on. Life will resume.

And yet, for the growing homeless population of Boston and the public workers that aid them, the fear will resurface.

Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic

January 29, 2015