That morning we had left a half hour later than planned.  The sky was overcast.  The forecast was thunderstorms, perhaps severe.  But we encountered no troubles on our trip home.

The next day Sharon Skrudland stopped me in the hallway at THQ to ask if I had heard about the trouble in Duluth MN.  Our previous day’s point of departure.  A deluge resulting in widescale flooding.  That evening after watching Duluth News Tribune videos of the day’s destruction to streets, sidewalks, homes, I phoned my sister and mother.  They were okay.  But the city certainly looked a mess.

Cities are vulnerable.  To gravity.  Some months ago I posted Claire Berlinski’s Chicago Tribune article on bad urban policy regarding earthquakes.  Duluth?  earthquakes?  Perhaps not.  Duluth is a city built on a hill.  A 700 foot steep hill of solid rock. 

But the rock is coated with urban asphalt and concrete.  This week much of the rock’s man-made coating was washed away.   During the rains not a few Duluthians may have felt that their city was being washed off into Lake Superior.

Mortals said “Come, let us build ourselves a city… a tower with its top in the heavens… let us make a name for ourselves”.  And they were scattered “abroad over the face of the earth” (Genesis 11).  The nature of cities from their beginning has been to go up.  God and gravity often have other ideas.  Languages and rains can knock us back.

We often choose to build our cities over fault lines, steep slopes or into the heavens of Manhattan.  When we do, sooner or later, and repeatedly, we will contend with gravity.

 

Aaron Rupar’s blog has a set of dramatic “jaw-dropping social media images” from Duluth’s flooding.

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