Surviving something this catastrophic is personal, private, something you can only share with the people who survived it with you. I tell people about the flood. I post pictures of it. But I don't let people in on everything. I can't. That's reserved for people who holed up in their houses, watching the flood waters rise; for people who walked into their homes after the water receded, holding their breath as they took in the damage; for people who waited in line at Walmart for supplies only to find out that the store is closing earlier than expected or that the supplies you need are not available; for people who have lost phone service and can't fill out the FEMA paperwork because of it; for people who only have the clothes on their back as their only possession; for people who got in a boat, wondering when they'd ever see their house again; for those who have to plug their nose to keep from gagging from the after smell of their house; for those who have so many tears but can't shed them because they are overwhelmed.
I will share the moments, the things that have defined this past week for so many people in Livingston Parish. Last Friday we went to bed, praying for our friends, praying that the rain was done. Saturday we hung around the house since my car couldn't make it through the standing water. In hindsight I wish I would've slept all day Saturday but instead we watched the flood coverage, thankful that it wasn't near us. Saturday night we went to bed only to be woken up two hours later to our neighbor pounding on the door, telling us to prepare for the flood water that had seeped into our subdivision. For 7 hours we put things up high to save them, watching the flood water inch closer to our house. It's ironic what, at the time, I found valuable enough to worry about (bread maker??? DVDs????). We lifted my hope chest up on our bed, the boys' toybox onto the guest bed. We put photo albums up on the tallest cupboards in our house, knowing that we couldn't replace those pictures from our younger years. After everything was up high we sat...and waited....and prayed....and feared for the worst....and talked about a game plan for evacuating. It's funny that, when I lived out West and would watch the news media of a hurricane I'd think "They knew it was coming. Why wouldn't they evacuate?" Now I know. You don't evacuate because you don't know where you'll end up. You don't know when you'll see your house again. Sometime during the day Sunday our neighbors moved in with us. Their house was filling up with water and, with 4 young kids and family members flooded worse than them, they had nowhere to go. We welcomed them with open arms and are blessed to have them living with us at the moment. By the time we went to bed Sunday night we knew, unless something crazy happened, that we had been spared. We moved furniture back in placed, put photo albums back on the bookshelves and put mattresses down for our new house guests. I can't remember much about Monday other than borrowing our neighbor's Hummer to get to the store. We were all craving a Coke and didn't have any in stock. I was almost to the point that I would've paid $100 just for a sip of one. Crazy what you miss when you can't have it. Rob was finally able to get to the store later in the afternoon (with our neighbor's Hummer) and stood in line for 40 minutes while Walmart only let in 5 people at a time just to bring us home a case of Coke. Another thing I remember is the spiders. I have never in my life seen so many spiders! Every time you open a door about 10 of them come in the house. Tuesday morning Rob was able to get to work but I had to pick up my Highlander where he had parked it. Our neighbor needed to get tubs to store what could be salvaged so he took me to get my car. I can't begin to describe the devastation that we saw. It looked like the End Times. A fire truck stranded in the middle of an intersection. A military vehicle on its side in a ditch. Store fronts shattered with merchandise exposed and in abnormal positions. It wasn't until Wednesday that life seemed to return to "normal", whatever that means. The kids and I were able to get out of the house without complications. I was able to get to the one Walmart in the general vicinity that is open. We were able to get Pizza Hut for dinner.
But the new "normal" includes our friends gutting their houses and starting to rebuild, businesses posting on FB that they can't recover from the flood and will close their doors permanently, not being able to shop for things easily, wondering if the gas station you're filling up at got water in its tanks, seeing FB posts for volunteers to help pull carpet and remove furniture from the church. The new "normal" also includes a sense of community like I've never been a part of before. It includes people helping each other before they help themselves. It includes countless hours of giving yourself. It includes a bond that is indescribable.
I praise the Lord that we were spared. I praise Him that we have the resources to help others. I praise Him that we never had to go to a shelter. I praise Him that we are able to be servants to so many during this difficult time. If you'd like to help please contact me in a comment below or via text/FB (if you have access to that info) and I'd love to tell you how you can bless someone's life during this difficult time. One thing is for sure...Louisianans are resilient and will come back stronger because that's who they are!
|Our church foyer after the water receded|
|Military rescue truck coming through our neighborhood|
|Our neighbor's house which took on 10" of water|
|View from our front door most of Sunday|
|How we gauged the water level, knowing if it got past 6" we would get water in the house|
|Our church Friday before the real flood happened|
Pictures taken in the community (I don't know who to give photo credit to because they were compiled on FB):
|A local pizza place that the boys had eaten lunch at just a couple weeks ago|
|A local church (and no, that is not a lake)|
|Range, where we spend so much time|
|The main exit for Denham Springs|
|Ariel view of Range|