There are gangs of people just roaming through the flooded neighborhoods offering to help muck out and empty soaked everything, pull wet sheet rock and insulation, and do the slow work of wiping everything down with disinfectant. The job lines for the flood mitigation companies in Colorado (not that there were many of them, I mean, come on... flooding in Colorado?) are 200 people long and the prices match the work involved, which is backbreaking, dirty, and nasty. So people are both doing it for themselves, and doing it for those who need the help. Everywhere.
On Friday, I got permission to feel the grief I've been carrying around with me all week. On Sunday, I went to help a lady with a sick son and a husband just out of surgery get the floorboards pulled up in her house, and found a huge part of my neighborhood in there with me.
I'm also seeing the confluence from the rest of the country, too. Places like Samaritan's Purse, the Southern Baptists, the Amish, and of course the usual Red Cross and Salvation Army disaster relief teams are all here. FEMA has set up centers in the old Mall in south end of town, and they've added booths at the local Walmarts (perhaps the best use I've seen of those parking lots) just trying to make it easy for people to do what they need to do in order to get help.
One of the local news items included two eleven-year-old boys who helped an elderly neighbor empty his basement of soaked stuff. They were surrounded by the wreckage of a destroyed couch, a pile of debris, a roll of ripped carpet and the lining under it, and boxes of books leaking water into the street. The reporter asked them what was the hardest part, and boys answered that it was having to throw away the Christmas stuff, that that was really sad for them.
Having hauled wet carpet, soaked books, crumbled drywall out of a basement, I hear them. While the lifting and the work is heavy, those aren't the things that are really hard. What's hard is the grief, the memories destroyed. The pictures sodden in the books or the decorations covered in mud. Even if they're someone else's, it's still painful.
On Friday night, the Moms all went out to Martini's Bistro for a couple of birthdays, the text message that was the invitation said, "I'm tired of Disasterland, let's help the local economy and enjoy a drink at Martini's Bistro." I love Tonya and her way with words, and she was right, I was pretty tired of Disasterland.
Of course, that was all we talked about, really. The stories, especially of one mom of a 19-year-old boy who walked into the water, first to help push one guy's car out of the water, and then, when the water came up another couple of feet, went out to get a guy out of a truck who'd driven in. He made it, just fine, but as a Mom, yeah, that really made the heart come to the throat. But yeah, another instance of someone just helping because they were there and there was no one else.
One thing that really got me, though, was when Tonya was being interviewed by her company's publicity group and when she was asked what it was like she said, "It sucks." Of about 150 people, eight had homes completely destroyed and washed away, twice to three times that had some damage to their homes, and everyone else was impacted because their friends or family had something destroyed by the flood. Whether it was a storage unit by the river or a basement or the beehives drowned in the waters, there was loss everywhere and everyone was impacted.
That was the first time I'd heard anyone say, "Okay, I didn't lose anything specific, but I still feel pain and grief at the fact that people I care about lost something of theirs." And I realized it was true for me, too, that I was hurt and angry at all of this.
They seem to be such small things, at first, just not being able to drive in any direction I used to drive, having to go around all the flooded places, at first, just to get where I was used to being able to go without a problem. And when I was allowed back onto the roads I hadn't been on for so long, seeing the piles of debris, the mud everywhere, and the damaged or destroyed fences, appliances, even old cars all just set out on the streets. It's all right there in front of me. *laughs softly*
... and that opened me up enough to go work on the house on Sunday. Something had shut me down earlier in the week, but after that, I was able to go and rip up floors with John and Jet. The funny thing was discovering Marietta, Larry, Chris, and a couple other families I knew there too. Working with them was really fun, too. Just getting to know them better under worse circumstances meant a lot to me.
And it was amazingly cool to see all these people I'd know in good times being even better in bad times for people in bad circumstances. Having them be honest in pulling up a nail cleanly, or talking with the teenagers on the site to make sure they were safe. It was all good.
My stint at 911 brought more light onto all this, too. I'm realizing, the more that I listen, that people basically want to help. That with any accident or altercation that's out in the street, more than one person calls it in. That neighbors shelter women who are under threat on an on-going basis in all kinds of circumstances. That anyone seeing someone hitting someone on the street calls it in, that someone seeing a robbery under progress will actually go running after the thief to get their license plates. Or at one point the Fire Department was looking at a car out in the water going, "We can't DO anything to save them..." and a guy pulls up on a jet ski going, "Can I help?" He saved those people in that car, and then the fire department guys pulled him off the railroad tracks when he got stuck. It's kind of eye-opening to me, when on so many tv shows so many crimes seem to go without remark or response when I'm realizing in real life, that really wouldn't happen. Few people actually turn a blind eye.
One guy even called in the FEMA reps in the Walmart parking lot, thinking they were scammers. I loved that.
So, yes, I'm learning, and it's been amazingly good amid the bad.