Saturday, June 6, 2009

Just a year ago...

Tomorrow marks the 1 year anniversary of our Great Flood.

It happened in a matter of just a few hours,
with the heaviest rains hitting north of our community,
yet the flood waters swept across the spillways & dams, bringing tons & tons of water, corn stalks & field debris
& changed our lives forever.
It was on a Saturday.

I'll never forget.
The radio was amazingly silent about what was happening
yet my phone began ringing, sending fear to my heart
as we had one sweet 86 year old lady that rented
from us & she was in harms way.
I jumped in my car to make sure Miss Julia was okay.
At Haw Creek & 7th street I found waters rolling across
the intersection & a police man frantically shooing us
another away.

Sirens were screaming. Helicopters were in the air.
Fire trucks were sounding their horns & rushing
down the side streets. Rescue trucks pulling trailers that carried air boats or some other kind of water craft were scurrying every direction.

As I tried to wriggle my way through the streets that
weren't covered with water, I came to 17th Street,
just down the road from our hospital.
There were cars everywhere, driving away from the hospital,
horns blaring, not knowing which way to turn.
At that point I didn't know the hospital was flooding
& being evacuated.

If felt like I was in the middle of some slow moving movie,
where there was a catastrophe & I was part of it.
I saw a young man running across Central Avenue.
He was dressed in blue jeans, no shirt, & I couldn't believe
it when I saw he had an IV bag taped to his chest
& a tube dangling from his arm!
A car behind me sounded their horn, & the young man ran
to them & jumped in the back seat.
No doubt he had been evacuated & someone was trying to get to him.
When I reached 25th Street traffic was at a stand still.
People began making U-turns in the middle of the road
and I suddenly saw why.
Hawcreek had breached her banks & waters were moving our way.
I saw 2 dumpsters swirling like toys in the parking lot
of Eastbrook Plaza, where I also saw a van parked
with water almost covering it.
That is when I decided I needed to get back home.
White River had covered one lane of State Road 46 West
& was lapping at the other lane. It seemed as though there was ocean waves of mud & debris heading towards the highway.
Karen was on duty that day at the hospital & had to help evacuate the labor & delivery floor. She recalls that the fire alarms were screeching as they pushed wheelchairs loaded with new mommies & their babies, then had to help them down the stairways as the elevators were out of service. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think she would have to put the disaster training into practice, but she was so glad they had prepared for just such as time as that. After the last patient was off of their floor, they quickly went from room to room to make sure everyone was out. And as they left that room, they put a big X on the door so other rescuers would know all were safe.

Jonathan helped friends at Franklin get away from their home that was nearly flooded. Later, he and that friend had to go rescue another couple, ones who suffered much more severe damage. Jeff was out of town, but made arrangements for anyone needing shelter to come to their home, and later Jonathan, Karen & Monty had to spend a few hours there as they couldn't get back home.

I never did get close enough to Miss Julia's home to see if she was okay. Later I tried to call & there was no answer. My phone rang very early the next morning & one of our other renters told me that she had Miss Julia with her & they were in a shelter. I felt a wave of relief, knowing she was safe. But she had gone through a terrifying time, having to be evacuated from her street in a boat, & then was loaded on a school bus. They were taken to Columbus East High School where Red Cross set up a shelter. But in the middle of the night, water breached the street & Columbus East began flooding. Once again, the refugees had to be loaded back on buses & were taken across town to Columbus North, going through streets covered in flood waters. No wonder Miss Julia told me, "Sheila, I about drowned!".

Our community was in shock.

The flood waters had completely shut down our hospital and it took over 5 months for them to be able to reopen.

But during that time, a mobile hospital was brought in for emergencies as our nearest hospital was almost 20 miles away.

Factories & businesses were shut down. Some suffered multi-million dollar losses. Some never re-opened.

Complete housing additions were in total ruin. Mud, sludge, & field debris was everywhere.

I remember driving around a few days later, feeling so helpless & at a loss of how to help. I had my camera with me, thinking I would take pictures of the piles & piles of trash, carpet, clutter & cornstalks that was curbside. But I just couldn't do it. It was like I would have been photographing someone else's loss & it broke my heart.(These photos were taken from our newspaper)

But we found out that during a disaster, our community pulled together & did what we could to help our friends, neighbors, & even those we didn't know. The City immediately began hauling all of the trash away without charge. They went up & down the streets that had suffered damage week after week, hauling away things that used to be someone else's history.

Residents that weren't flooded found it a good time to clean out their closets, attics, or basements & donated tons of clothing & furniture to those in need.

We talked to people we would never even notice before.

Everyone had their own story.

It seemed that if we didn't suffer personal loss,

we knew someone who did.

It was a terrible time.

I'm not quite sure why communities like ours have to go through these kinds of experiences. But I know that we all learned from this terrible flood.

I now have a much more sympathetic ear when I hear of flood waters in other areas and sort of visualize what they are going through. This Spring when the torrential rains came & the river banks were about ready to overflow, a feeling of dread was felt. But thankfully the waters have receded & we are going on with our lives.

We'll never be the same...


Lady J said...

Have you ever thought of working for The Republic? You write such good human interest stuff! As I worked my yard sale this morning I thought about how last year it literally flooded us out. We didn't have it bad but I still feel the effects. I can't imagine what those who were in the midst of it went through. God was good to us all.

Karen Walden said...

Oh my how I remember that day! What a good recap! That had to take some time to put it all together!! Hope there's no rain in the forecast for tomorrow! ;)