Thursday, March 01, 2007


10 Year Anniversary of my Flood Experience

The Cincinnati Post - It began with a drizzle: "It was 10 years ago today that a steady rain swelled the Licking River and sent water creeping, then rushing through the streets, swamping cars, covering porches, washing houses and trailers off their foundations and eventually covering 95 percent of the town.
The river level rose from 4 feet to 52 feet in two days. Five people drowned. Most of the 2,500 residents had to flee their homes. Nearly 500 buildings were destroyed or heavily damaged.
When the water receded, residents hunted through the mud to find something familiar and wondered how the city would ever survive. There was even brief talk of not rebuilding at all there, but moving the entire town to higher ground."

I lived and worked in Cincinnati in 1997. When Falmouth needed volunteers, I went down. I went to be nosey, to see in person what I had seen on the news. There were an embarassing number of rubber-neckers in town that day. After that drive through town, I went back to the school where the Red Cross had set up their operations. They directed me to the town library on or near Main Street. I, in my favorite Army boots, blue jeans (maybe black), and another favorite red plaid button down too big for me, I took difficult steps in the tacky mud covering the dark library floor. There still wasn't electricity and no one knew how long it would take to get it back. In many ways, it didn't matter, because no one who lived in town could stay there at night anyway. I distinctly remember what I was wearing that day, because I had to sadly throw away clothes that I so treasured. Thinking back on it, I didn't have enough smarts to know that the people I had met that day would have to throw away everything. My one outfit was not an issue to worry over. I had more clothes, more books, and my home intact.
I remember the librarian being a bit annoyed by my offer of my books, as I had a good softback Shakespeare collection and other childhood favorites. She was in an extremely stressful situation, so I understood when she explained that there would be government money and publisher's donations. She, in the midst of her annoyance, thanked me, but I remember thinking that she didn't mean it. I think she wondered why a kid, early twenties, would be there other than to gawk at their very personal tragedy. As dusk approached, they shut the doors of this one-room library, only to go sleep on cots at the school.
My lasting impression of that experience was from the gawking. I am so blessed that I chose to do what everyone had hoped we wouldn't. I saw the power of water. I thought of water as showers and spigots. This reminded me that water was also flowing rivers that can move 18-wheelers city blocks away from its parking spot. It can rip from an old lady all of the pictures of her kin and take them downstream guiltlessly. The water rose, stole, and left dangerous conditions that it took years to clean. A friend of mine with family in Falmouth told me her grandfather had a heart attack. The family and doctors believed that it was brought on by the stress of the flood, rinsing them of their possessions as well. It was amazing to have the flood there to put things in perspective only to have the health of a loved one put the flood in perspective.

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