Saturday, May 22, 2010

We Could Have Never Known

There wasn't really anything different about that day. Living alongside a river has proven to be inconvenient at times. The beautiful back road to my house follows the river in spots. It is not uncommon for a severely heavy rain to rise the waters causing them to spill into the road and across the street into the field. When this happens, detour. It's makes sense. It is the waters edge. I have been late to things before because I journeyed that way only to discover I would have to backtrack and go out the more civilized way via interstate.

I went the other way. I was heading out to an important meeting on a Saturday afternoon. I was driving away from the river. The rain was brutal, but it wasn't even that difficult to see. I've had to pull over before because the rain was so hard that I couldn't see out my windshield. Not that day. I could see. But I approached a dip in the road that was full of water. In 8 years I had never seen water pool in that area before. It was very shallow. I drove through. A few hundred feet further and there was another pooled area. This struck me as bizarre. My instinct told me to turn around and go home. What if I crossed safely through but couldn't get home later in the event those pools got deeper. I would miss the important meeting and would return safely home.

Tornado warnings followed soon. Flash flood warnings. I have never in my life really known what a flash flood was. Still don't, really. Nothing about this flood was a flash. Soon the power was out. And not much longer after that, the cell phone service was out too. I had been glued to facebook via my phone watching as the fear in people rose as high as the waters. Reading the SOS signals spread far and wide across the social network. The water had risen so high in one neighborhood that people were being rescued by boat. People in my subdivision were posting photos of the waters approaching their homes. Then, no more facebook. No more anything. No phone. And also, no groceries.

The water never came down my street so I truly had no idea of the devastation drowning the comforts and simplicities of the lives down the road. It would be 2 full days before anything recovered enough for me to begin to get a glimpse of what was going on. It was then that I learned my husbands employer had been destroyed. I still cannot put into words how I felt and feel about what I saw. I still cannot fathom that one young man floated away and still has not been found. I still cannot process that our city and surrounding cities became a lake, with boats floating down streets and in parking lots. I still cannot fathom that the rush of the water knocked down thousands of trees.....many trees that still look like they are lying down taking a nap, but I know they will never wake up. I still cannot process that many people lost their homes and will not even be allowed to rebuild because of their location and elevation. I still cannot fathom that many people lost their keepsakes, their photos, and other personal tiny treasures that cannot be replaced. I still cannot fathom that many people drowned just trying to get to higher ground. I still cannot fathom that some houses were completely forced off of their foundations and that entire streets caved and floated away. I cannot fathom the pets that are lost and those that drowned. And I cannot fathom that some people lost the one and only home they have ever known. And I cannot fathom that it won't happen again. It seemed to happen all too easily.

I'm sorry to be writing about this again. It has been raining a lot. It is not raining today, thankfully....but we have continued to have way more rain than we need. I was having lunch with a friend of mine this week, Marcia. I said, "we'll never look at rain the same". Just meaning....heavy rain is scary. Marcia is a songwriter and she wrote that line down and threatened to write a song. I hope she does.

There was really nothing different about that day. But everything is different now.


Sarah said...

It's good that you're writing about this. Maybe that will help you eventually let go, though I know you'll never forget. So glad you and your family and your home were safe.

Pete Ahlstrom said...

Melissa & Joe,

It was quite moving to share the onset of your storm with you. We wish Joe's job hadn't gone with it, or the many other jobs and homes that were lost.

And we wish we could do something to help. We do actually have one very long-shot idea (two,really), but instead of mentioning them here I'll do them via e-mail so I can attach a page of pictures.

The weather here isn't great either, but at least we haven't had a 1000 year flood. Did wake up to snow this morning, and it looks as if an even bigger snowstorm is settling in for tonight. But that's not rare here, even in May (hey, sometimes even in June).

Several times in the last week our family (yesterday just Yvette and me)went out into the back country south of here You guys should have been along! First, we spotted a herd of 17 wild horses, 4of which were the cutest baby horses you've ever seen! Then a herd of about 14 antelope(they were running too fast to count exactly.) Then 4 deer. Finally 2 sage hens; (picture a grouse or partridge as big as an eagle). Memorable day.

Anyway, we left town on US 191 South, and twice in the first few miles on that highway there are signs that say "Road may be closed. Limited snowplow service." And those signs are there all year round.

Doubt Tennessee needs many of those signs, but hey, this is Wyoming.

God bless your whole family, and we'll send our long-shot idea.