Fort Vermilion Flood, 2020.
The eighth day of the flood is marred with mud, sadness, loss, and the tiniest dash of hope.
The anger of the Peace River has broken to calmness. When I look out over the still water I almost forget the sight behind me: streets littered with dumpsters,everyone waist deep in mud trying to scavenge what they can. It is not surprising that most of what I see ends up in the dumpster and not the keeping pile, but that does not make it less shocking.
I am no longer spending my days with Incident Command. Instead, my time is spent covered in mud helping my friends as they clean out their own homes. Yesterday was the first day to go in and assess damages, it left nearly all of us downcast and dejected. If your home was lucky to have survived mostly unscathed, the joy faded with the look in your neighbor’s eyes. Two of my friends have suffered massive losse: one with a foot of water in their main level, the other perhaps losing their entire home. Both of these dwellings were new to them. To top it all off, both of these families are expecting children, with one due in less than a month. I can only imagine the pressure they feel, insurance doesn’t cover an “Act of God,” does it?
My entire day was spent shifting through the muddied personal belongings of someone else, wedding memories, games, movies, furniture, food, and art: everything that makes a house a home. It was heart wrenching having to ask if something of sentimental value was for the garbage pile, even though I already knew the answer. I have never seen anything like this before. The water having come up from the basement into the main floor left silt everywhere. And, I do mean everywhere: in the fridge, oven, cabinets. If you can name it, silt was in it. And remember, this was all upstairs. The basement, which was newly renovated, took the most damage: everything was lost. Objects may be objects, but they are still the things we strive for and work hard to get, and it is terrible having to haul it all up stairs that are caked with mud to the point where the hardest part is trying not to slip. My heart goes out to them and everyone else affected. I wish I could do more.
It is surreal working at the dumpster. The streets are lined with tractors and people covered in silt. The worst sight for me was seeing fences covered with children’s clothes, a makeshift clothesline of metal and hope. The dumpster was such an odd amalgamation of sentiments: beds, toys, dressers, books, photographes, entire lives just piled on top of one another; all of us blending into one community within those mud covered rusty walls. And perhaps that is the small ray of hope we all need: We are not alone. We won’t give up and give in. We will work together, and we all make it through this. The tunnel is certinyl dark and long, but there is an end.
My friend who owns the house above has a Go Fund Me that someone else created. I know times are hard for us all right now, but if you do have anything extra and an ability to help, please consider donating some money. You can see their house below after we worked all day and “cleaned” the floor.
Link to their Go Fund Me: