Flood of Generosity

310453_2499111920494_432330222_nHurricane Irene appeared with all the pomp and circumstance expected. Our area of town sits lower than most of town so, whenever it rains, our street floods and sometimes our backyard floods from the creek 200 yards behind the house. When it storms or we are expecting heavy rains, all of the neighbors know to move their vehicles to higher ground. Norm prepared a storm kit and we packed a bag for everyone with two days worth of clothing even though we usually did not need it. We even moved Lexi’s rabbit’s cage to our back porch.     Hurricane Irene arrived August 27 on a Saturday evening. The neighborhood moved their vehicles out of the way in anticipation of the upcoming storm. Norm headed to the firehouse to run fire calls for the evening. He began to notice symptoms of a gastrointestinal issue but ignored it as we had issues with his stomach med and the pharmacy the week before. As the evening wore on, he felt worse and came home. He informed me about the problem at 2AM and we agreed to wait until morning to try to make it to the hospital as the storm was raging outside. Unfortunately at 5AM we discovered he must have lost too much blood because he passed out in the bathroom knocking the sink off the wall. He tried getting up twice to get to the bed and passed out twice more. He did make it to the bed with my help.
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I called 911 and the ambulance soon arrived. I was a little upset because they had me walk Norm down the stairway instead of helping him down. He was taken to the hospital and sent home after a few days with an order for a follow-up to get the left part of his colon removed.
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Hurricane Irene did cause the water to rise somewhat but it went down like always. The neighbors moved their vehicles to another street until the street was safe. The wind flattened local corn fields and caused damage to houses but, in the end, the storm moved on as did the citizens.
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On the wings of Hurricane Irene followed Lee, a tropical storm. When it emerged from the gulf and headed north the meteorologists barely mentioned it. However things quickly changed on Wednesday, September 7, as it formed a secondary system which hovered over the east coast sponging up moisture into the atmosphere from the coast and dumping it onto the already saturated ground of the coastal states. It was Norm’s first night back at work after being hospitalized. The rain left loose over lunchtime and by 2:00 most roads were impassable to safely take children home. They were evacuated to the high school where parents swarmed to pick up their terrified children and hurry them home as quickly as possible. The rains slowed for a short while and I brought our children home where we monitored the local weather and watched the creek. I had Nicole help me once more to move the rabbit’s cage to the back porch. Suddenly around five the creek began to rise…. Quickly! I watched as it inched closer and closer to our sump pump pipe which stood four feet over our lower back yard. When it came within six inches I anxiously listened to the weatherman forecast more heavy rains within the next few hours, and watched the water proceed around the house to the front and start up the street. I urged the children to quickly repack a few days worth of things into bags. Fifteen minutes later I noticed, to my horror that we were sitting on an island. I took my children through the neighbor’s yards to the end of the street where the elevation was slightly higher where I assisted them through two feet of rushing water plus their bags. We noticed neighbors watching us from our porches and I handed my next door neighbor a key to the house asking him to watch it and our rabbit. I then returned to the house for the dog. I forced him onto the flooded sidewalk where we made our way up the street. He did not like the water and tried to climb out of it. I had to give him a pep talk reminding him that he was indeed a Labrador Retriever and that normal labs enjoyed the water. We got to the corner where I pulled him into the water. I was afraid the current was going to take him for a minute but he persevered to the other side where we clamored to safety. We fled to my parents’ house across town.
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Norm never made it home that night. He finished his work early and went to assist with evacuations. The town was mostly cut off from the outside world by flooded creeks that circled around 7/8 of town. He ended up bedding down at the local Middle school where he had children who went to the school he worked at taking refuge there. Norm had set up that area as an evacuation site as the assistant emergency management coordinator. The kids thought it was cool to spend the night with their custodian and the fireman that came to their schools to teach them to be fire safe. Slowly people straggled in to the shelters. They told story after story of escape and survival. One lady told how she was driving along and could hear the water. She looked over and saw the wall of water coming pushing down rows of corn in its wake. People were rescued from the second floor of their homes when the water rose four feet in fifteen minutes. Basements that had never had water had several feet that night. Our neighbors usually put their vehicles in a neighboring parking lot whenever the water got high. Not even that was safe. Many people lost both their houses and their vehicles. One man even lost his life when he was swept away as rescuers tried in vain to save him. Norm made it to my parents’ house late Thursday, which was to have been our 21st wedding anniversary, after checking the house. The water had completely filled the basement and gotten into our first floor destroying furniture and appliances as well as many items of sentimental value.
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Overnight the basement wall collapsed in which Norm discovered Friday morning. Devastated we went to the house we had lived in 8 ½ years and could not believe our eyes. Up and down the street we saw neighbors with the same devastated look on their faces. Norm happened upon friends from our church who stopped to ask him about his health. They were working on a home near my parents’ house. When they heard about our plight they dropped everything and came to help. The contractor was about to get out at the house to look and he quickly realized that his work khakis would be completely inappropriate as there was mud everywhere. They quickly took care of contacting the insurance company to get emergency help for our home before it collapsed completely and then set out to help the rest of the block.
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Our rabbit had even been in danger. A mouse had tried escaping into her cage and was drowned as the water rose into the cage. It was almost ready to topple into the water when the neighbor saw it and pulled it further onto the porch. On Friday morning I retrieved a very frightened, wet bunny and held her close until we got her back to my parents’ house where their neighbor offered an empty cage. The water overturned our shed which was up on a hill. It swept our heavy wooden swing set into a neighbor’s yard and moved our picnic table several feet with the benches still sitting on top of it. I had went to take photos Thursday morning and saw that the water was right below our door and felt relieved till I heard that the water was down two feet which meant that it had been in our first floor.
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On Saturday, we began hearing of devastation over other areas of town close to the same creek. In all, the total number of people affected by flooding hit 600 households and kept rising. Volunteers poured in from all over, many from our church. The contractor had secured our home enough to get our things out. Members from our church descended upon it to help us and then our neighbors remove items from our house. A man came from the local newspaper to take a picture of Norm and I standing next to the gaping hole. It was in the paper the next morning. Someone from our church who was planning on selling their house saw our picture and read our story and offered their house to us instead. That was the first of many many MANY gifts of generosity. When I had cancer three years earlier we had at first had trouble accepting gifts but we realized that was how people showed love and it was wrong to reject them. This prepared us for the even more overwhelming outpouring of giving from all over the community. In the week it took us to move into our temporary house we were able to completely refurnish it.   People are continuing to bless us with gifts.
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It was difficult to pull out the papers and report cards I had saved from the children’s previous years at school and preschool. They were all ruined. The collapsed basement had a couple feet of mud in it and most of our things were destroyed. A woman from our church collected the soaked dirty photo albums I had, took them home and put out a call to the ladies via Facebook from our church to help save our photos. There were at least 12 and they were all claimed before the day was through.
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Some ladies took home laundry and blankets and laundered them. A lot of our things went back to my parents’ house where my parents and brother spent an entire day trying to clean and dry things. My mom’s neighbor took my good china home and cleaned it. My mother-in-law took blankets and our tent.
The whole thing was exhausting both mentally and emotionally. People would stop me and tell me things and five minutes later I had no recollection of what they had just told me. I would smile and shake my head but inside, my mind was a total blank. Going to work was actually a welcome change as I had no time to think about what had just happened to us. People were constantly calling or stopping by with food and clothing and other donations. It was all very overwhelming. My anxiety attacks actually increased again because of the lack of control I felt.
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This thing had even affected the dog. Suddenly he had to swim through water which he never had to do before. Suddenly he was mostly stuck in a crate for about a week. Suddenly he is moved to a whole new place. He was a lot higher strung and I heard another neighbor experiencing a different dog in their pet as well. Norm was up at 5:30 one morning to use the rest room. It was dark and he saw something on the couch. He wasn’t sure if it was the dog or the kids left something on the couch so he reached down (in the dark) to find out what it was. Here is was a sleeping dog….who was suddenly wakened by a hand grabbing him. Of course he lashed out at whatever woke him up and scared him. That would be Norm’s hand. As soon as he realized it was Norm, he dropped it and for the rest of the day he walked around with his head down and tail between his legs. We knew he was sorry and did not mean it. The doctor gave Norm an antibiotic.
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It is so hard to comprehend all that has happened to us. It feels so unreal. I keep asking God “Why?” I don’t want to deal with this. I just want to go home but it will be many months before we will be able to return home to our quiet little street where ducks sometimes swim in my backyard. Sometimes I resent this happened to us. I wish we could go back in time. I know there was no way we could have prevented the wall from caving in but it does not keeping me from wishing. What gets me through is praise music. People tell me I am so brave and they admire me for trusting God but when you get in this situation, you only have two choices. You can either sit around and whine how life isn’t fair which no one wants to hear anyway or you can look for the good. One thing that was good was that my neighbor accepted Christ after witnessing our church in action after the flood. You see the humor in certain situations. My supervisor once let it slip out after listening to what all was going on with us, “When it rains it pours!” As quickly as it came out of her mouth, she slapped her hand over her mouth at she realized the irony behind the statement. The day of the flood was our anniversary. I found the card I had previously bought the following day when we were cleaning out our house. I got out a pen and signed it, “You flood me with love” and gave it to Norm when he showed up….Other zany quirky little things. You have to have a sense of humor or you would go insane. It’s not all a bed of roses. Last week I was in a conversation with my insurance agent and he told me that he felt we were under-insured and our insurance may not cover it all, especially with the emergency work done. I just broke down. What are we going to do? Friends assured us that we would not be left high and dry and I just have to trust God will carry us through. I do worry because Norm needs surgery.  Sometimes all I can do is try and find something to distract me from thinking about it. I keep busy….. but the stress of having to deal with so many things can be overwhelming and all I want to do is run….to escape.
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Stress just makes you feel so stupid. You can’t figure things out that you used to have no problem doing. I texted my neighbor that I constantly felt like a blonde. She said she was feeling the same.
It is just hard to imagine the destruction that hit our street, our house….and I was even there to see it first-hand. How do I explain it to others who have not seen it? Those who complain about one or two or six inches in their basements…. The water was to the ceiling of our basement and the mud! The mud! Our one youth pastor took photos of the inside of our house in addition to what we took. There was mud caked on the heat ducts against the ceiling. There was mud encrusted on the faucet on a water pipe near the ceiling. You walk through our living room and the water rises up out of the carpet under your feet like you are walking on a sponge. We found a rabbit between our house and the neighbors covered in mud. When I first saw it, I thought it was a chocolate bunny. That was exactly what it looked like. Nicole said she wasn’t eating chocolate bunnies for a long time. I had a wash line strung in the one side of my basement and the clothes pins were encased in mud. There was mud on the hangers hanging on the line too. The falling wall took out our stairwell at the bottom. I had tomatoes in my front flower bed and after the flood I had green tomatoes covered in mud. And yet through the whole recovery mode, my butterfly bush flourished and the bees and butterflies enjoyed the sweet nectar in the midst of the chaos.The day after the flood we were treated to a monarch butterfly emerging from it’s cocoon.

I had Bible verses from my summer Bible study taped to my refrigerator and I found the one after we got things from the house. “He will be the foundation of your future. The riches of salvation are wisdom and knowledge.” Isaiah 33:6. Yes, the wall from my home seriously damaged our foundation but we are trusting God to be the foundation in our lives and get us through when storms arise.  The next year will not be easy but we are trusting Him with our future.  That is not saying that there won’t be days I feel down but I know God will get us through this.
We are waiting for the surgeon to get back to us with a date on removing part of Norm’s colon. I will post some more when we find out more information.

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10 thoughts on “Flood of Generosity

    • Thank you for stopping by and your kind words. I am currently trying to consolidate a couple of blogs into one so you may see some older posts as well. I hope you can come back again!

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