COVER SIDEBAR- Inside story: When a tree smashes your house
It was only later that Anoop Mirpuri considered, "I could have died."
On June 24, Mirpuri was at his rental home in his upstairs office, preparing to defend his dissertation as a fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute. As the wind picked up, he decided to go downstairs and close the bedroom windows. That's when he heard a loud noise.
"I thought it was an earthquake," says the California-raised scholar. "I looked up, and the roof started cracking."
The microburst that snapped trees all over Charlottesville had sheared off the side of the house he rents with his girlfriend on Westwood Road. Gone was his desk, his Macbook, and nearly his life.
I ran out and saw the tree," says Mirpuri.
Four days later, a blue tarp is the only wall for the office and bedroom on that side of the house. Monopoly money, a GQ magazine, and a battered printer that were inside pre-storm now litter the yard.
Thirty-one houses in town had trees crashing down on them in the June 24 storm, exceeding the 27 homes tree-bombed by Hurricane Isabel, a multi-day event, says Fire Chief Charles Werner.
Mirpuri and Chelsea Marie, who is wrapping up her post-doctoral work at the UVA Medical Center, are trying to pack what's left of life in Charlottesville for a moving van coming in two days.
"Our neighbors have been great," says Marie. "No one else has helped us."
When she thought things couldn't get any worse, Marie says a television station, running a story about the damage, gave the address of the house, which is owned by Hook culture editor Rosalind Warfield-Brown, and they experienced a dose of post-storm looting.
"Someone came and walked off with a new propane tank," says Marie. "Sixty dollars is a lot to us now." The couple doesn't have renters insurance.
Good news came the following day when Mirpuri's MacBook was found amid the rubble. Better yet, the computer came on. His dissertation secure, he plans to continue its defense as planned.
They've been staying with friends and plan to go forward with their move in a month to Drew University in northern New Jersey.
"We've rented a basement townhouse," says Marie. "That sounds great right now."