So Northern Colorado had a flood. You may have heard about it. I have been in my house five days now; my neighborhood was essentially an island, surrounded by flooded out streets and blocked roadways. The city was gradually opening up, then flooded again. We are lucky; we bought this house in May, and it is still safe and dry. I don’t know how; the surrounding roads were underwater. Every neighborhood where we first considered buying a home went under; had we chosen those homes, we’d have been homeless now. If we were still living int he apartment, we’d have lost our cars and storage unit. We have water, power, heat, food. My daughters sleep safely in their beds. We’re lucky.
At the beginning of the week, the clouds rolled in, relieving us from the oppressive heat. We were thrilled. Two nights later, at three am, I sat up watching the torrential rains fall as the emergency signals began to blare on TV. City after city went under as our beautiful, peaceful rivers swelled to raging monsters. In the morning, my friends fled her flooded home and managed to make it to my town before the roads were closed. Their path to their daughter was blocked, so they came to my house and we waited it out together. The emergency signals continued almost hourly, and we waited to see if our house would last each night. The park across the street filled to the brim with water. Rain pattered ceaselessly. We watched movies with the kids, cooked, and my friend taught M to make lanyards.
A month prior, I had found a leak in the basement and calked the foundation myself. I prayed it would hold. It did. I called friends around town and checked on their safety.
During the occasional storm break, we ventured out to get food. The grocery store was jammed, with the checkout line wrapping the perimeter of the store. The manager apologized over the intercom for the lack of supplies and the lines, and offered pay to anyone who knew how to run a register and could jump in. Tensions ran high, but people stayed civil.
The next day, one road opened. My friend bought us a turtle cake before she left. My husband and I made dinner together, hugging each other, so relieved that we were unscathed, so sad for our friends and their destroyed house. Exhausted from the sheer adrenaline that comes with waiting, feeling my stomach finally unclench and the stress headache disappear. I sat on the driveway and watched the water int he park sink down, blinking back tears. Peeking in at my little girls late at night. Watching TV and eating cake, while others around, I knew, were airlifted to shelters. Why us? Why were we safe and so many others weren’t? I’m so grateful to be safe, and yet distressed. What else can I do but sit here and stay out of the way, and let the people do their jobs?
My husbands rode his bike out and took some photos. He described roads caked in a mixture of mud, debris, drowned animals, and broken children’s toys. It took snowplows to blade it all off.
We went for a walk near our house later, ice water squelching out of the ground into my shoes. A Chinese family sat out on the lawn, and even though their toddler spoke no English, she and my daughter ran and played in the grass, and we smiled at each other in mutual relief.
The sun came out today. I planted shrubs with my daughter, had some cake, cleaned house. We went out today when the roads opened up, amazed by the devastation some neighborhoods suffered, while others were untouched. Roads caked in mud and debris, mobile homes with their bases shattered, railroad tracks warped and snapped. Mud spattered up over the walk signs on the streetlight, rendering them unusable. A pile of cars slammed together by the water, crumpled in one large pile, a sign reading Corvette Repair crashed down on top. A man opening his car door to have a deluge of water pour onto his feet. An old woman weeping beside the destroyed railroad. A little girl’s sparkly Hello Kitty suitcase jutting out of the mud, her doll face down nearby. Our beautiful river that M loves to run by, raging over fallen trees, the paths sucked under. Broken bridges. An image of a park in Boulder on the news where M was swinging only this summer, that same swing in the rain, the giant oak cleaved in two by a log.
There’s good news, too. The evacuation centers are so overwhelmed with volunteers and donations they turned some away. Missing people found. People who saved pets and took them home, returning them to their owners. A woman who collected horses and is keeping them at her ranch until the repairs are done. The townspeople are out sweeping, washing, hugging each other, smiling and waving, everyone happy to be alive. Children playing in the sun. My daughter twirling on the lawn, hugging her baby doll. My husband said, “People are like ants…you step on their homes, they rebuild.”
Currently, there are 20000 homes damaged or destroyed, and the floods continue. We’ll do our best. My feelings are indescribable…my heart breaks for everyone hurt by the flood. Yes, they can rebuild, but it won’t be the same–you can replace stuff, but the memory of devastation lives on. (And it’s very easy to say “it’s just stuff” when it’s not your stuff.) I feel so blessed to be safe. So relieved that no one I loved died. So tired, so loved, so frightened. So helpless. But most importantly, still alive.
If you live somewhere where you didn’t know about the floods, you can see it here:
If you want to help, look here:
In the meantime, everyone, stay safe. Give the people you love an extra hug or phone call. See if there are things you don’t need to donate to someone who does. Have some cake, enjoy the moment, treasure the time you have.
Love you all. Stay dry.