Community ties remain strong as flood waters recedeAs I write this we are just a load or two away from completing the task of hauling all of our flood-damaged belongings to the Rice Lake landfill. This is load number five. It has been a daunting task and in the interest of full disclosure, it has been the men in my family who have shouldered most of the responsibility.
By: Tammy François , Duluth Budgeteer News
As I write this we are just a load or two away from completing the task of hauling all of our flood-damaged belongings to the Rice Lake landfill. This is load number five. It has been a daunting task and in the interest of full disclosure, it has been the men in my family who have shouldered most of the responsibility. I have sorted through boxes, laid photos out to dry, directed traffic and tried to keep a stiff upper lip. Emotion is dammed up, but
I know I can’t open the gates. Not yet. Not until the last load is gone and there’s time to take stock.
The logical side of my brain tells me truthfully that whatever has been lost is just “stuff” — carpet, furniture, books, children’s toys and games. My family, neighbors and pets are safe.
My neighbors and I don’t know the extent of the damage to our homes, but it’s too soon to think about that. We’re still telling ourselves that “it could have been much worse” although this flooding comes on the heels of a recent hail storm in our neighborhood that damaged roofs, decks, siding, vehicles and windows. On our block it’s not uncommon to see a roofer’s sign in the front yard and a disaster cleanup truck around the back.
I heard the rain falling the night of the flood, but I wasn’t bothered. My bed is next to the window where I often sit when it rains. I love to listen as it falls on the porch roof and the street below. We have lived in this big old house for almost 20 years and it is a fortress of concrete and steel I-beams.
Even in the fiercest weather — straight-line winds, howling blizzards or quarter-size hail — we’ve slept safely and soundly, so when my boys came up and announced that water was pouring into the basement, I sat in stunned disbelief for a moment. I heard the words they said, but the words didn’t make sense.
A few minutes later, I stood at the top of the basement stairs and looked down into the family room trying not to panic, but realizing that I had already lost the battle I was about to fight. Mother Nature was on a tear and I was woefully outclassed, but I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants legs and sank my feet into the soaking boggy mess that had been our new carpet.
We worked for a couple of hours just trying to salvage the most important things — pictures, family treasures like the handmade quilt that had been a collaboration between my two great grandmothers, bed linens that had been beautifully edged by my grandmother with delicate crocheted lace and boxes of written, drawn and painted treasures made by my five children over the years. We saved some, but eventually had to accept defeat and let the water come. It was going to come no matter what we did.
We went upstairs and closed the door so we couldn’t hear it. In retrospect I suppose we were allowing ourselves a little denial.
I carried some things upstairs to my room just to have them close and I thought about the nature of loss.
Of course, loss is always hard and it’s always relative. I mean, my crochet trimmed pillow cases might be the last things someone else would save, but as we know, it’s not the item itself that is precious. A pile of old bed linens is probably worth $10 on eBay, but the hands that made them and the love that went into them are beyond value. When many things are lost all at once it is overwhelming and unsettling.
Early the next morning, my husband bought one of the few pumps that remained at Menards. An employee sold the ones that had been used to pump water from the store’s garden center. By the time Bill made the seven-mile trip from Menards to Morgan Park, both entries to the neighborhood were impassable. What had been a street was now a rushing river with lower-lying areas looking like lakes. He parked the car on Grand Avenue and walked carefully through the rising water, passing others going back and forth and a car that had stalled in the flow.
When the pump was finally at work in the basement, we started checking in with family, friends and neighbors.
Many folks on this end of town are just regular working-class people. They were drawn to the neighborhood because it was possible to buy one of these old houses on a tree-lined street near playgrounds, schools and churches for an affordable price. Most people are just getting by and don’t have a lot of extra.
Our neighbors across the alley are a retired couple, the woman next to them is a widow, another neighbor is a disabled veteran, and next door is a single woman in her 60s working all the overtime she can in order to keep her house for a few more years. Hardest hit was a one-income family of four a few houses away. Flood water had risen up the walls in their finished basement, destroying the carpet, furnishings, sheet rock and paneling and soaking the studs beneath. They, too, are knee-deep in the process of cleanup.
None of us have flood insurance. In fact, according to Duluth News Tribune report, only 111 properties in Duluth ARE covered. This much rain at one time is so rare that few lay out the extra money for coverage.
What I know is that we’re resourceful — all of us are. It was clear, as I watched the Facebook feed, the live weather blog on the Tribune webpage, and listened to the St. Louis County scanners the night of the flood. People were sharing information and encouragement and helping where they could. Suddenly we weren’t 80,000 individuals going in separate directions. We were a community experiencing a crisis and trying to help each other through.
Pull Out: People were sharing information and encouragement and helping where they could. Suddenly we weren’t 80,000 individuals going in separate directions. We were a community experiencing a crisis and trying to help each other through.
Tammy François is an older-than-average college student living in Morgan Park.