I haven’t been able to post anything here because I haven’t been fishing. Well, I did make one trip to my favorite private pond but the fishing was slow (only two largemouth bass and two nice hybrid stripers). That same day, I planned on making a float trip with a good fishing buddy of mine up the Amite River. When we got to our “take out” point, we noticed that the water was a bit high and dirty, so we did a walk in trip nearby. The fish did not cooperate so we called it a day, ate a sandwich, and drank a couple of good brews. Little did I know what would come the following week. The following is typed up from some notes I jotted down in a notebook during this past week:
It’s been 6 days since we got the message on the radio that school had been cancelled due to the eminent threat of flooding in our area. That was Friday. My initial thought was that this would last a day, people who lived in flood prone areas would flood, and then that would be it. The world would just go on as normal on Monday. I took the time Friday morning to get caught up on my school paperwork. I completed 2 weeks of lesson plans and I even created an online “homework” assignment so we could claim that day as a full day.
Later that night, I received a frantic call from my cousin’s husband asking for help to put his furniture up on cinder blocks. My wife and I promised to go over there Saturday morning to help them. During the day, I learned that my 26-year-old son had spend the day rescuing people stranded by rising waters with his shallow drive boat, a boat that is built for this kind of work but is still treacherous in the raging waters and current of a flash flood. Nothing could make me prouder! I personally spent time rescuing people with a friend on mine on Sunday.
The media calls this the Great Flood of 2016. I imagine tens of thousands have lost everything (I later learned that an estimated 110,000 homes had been flooded). My emotions have run the gamut, from guilt (we didn’t experience flooding in my house), fear, anxiety, and sadness. I just can’t list all the emotions I’ve felt. The main good thing I guess is…I continue to feel. I feel for those who had to swim out with their children on their back. I feel for those who did not have flood insurance. I feel for those who have lost everything…house, vehicles, and businesses. I feel for those who will have to bury loved ones.
Monday, after the flood waters began to recede, I helped ferry people back to their destroyed homes to survey the damage. That was difficult too. I had to watch proud fathers cry when they first saw the damage. I watched mothers sob when they realized they had lost one-of-a-kind family photos. Photos of deceased family. Photos of a deceased first-born child. I’ve seen panic attacks and more! I’ve had to try to console people and tell them that their “things” can be replaced and that the lives of their loved ones are all that matters. Stupid me! They know that!! I just don’t know what to say!
For 5 days in a row, I helped lead a team of faculty members into the homes of our dear friends, family, students, and colleagues. We gutted 11 homes in five days! I am exhausted. When I ask God why was my family spared? I hear “I’m just granting you the answer to the prayer you pray multiple times each day. I pray, God help me to use the gifts you’ve given me to the best of my ability. My son is pulling people out of harms way, some of whom would not have survived had he not been there. My wife is working night shifts to help manage the disaster from the state level.
And through it all, I do what I pray. I use my God-given gifts to the best of my ability. I plow on through achy bones, joints, and extreme fatigue. The most difficult part for me has been my inability to help people. While I’m working to rid one house of soaked flooring and drywall (what an oxymoron right now), I get phone messages and emails with names and addresses of others seeking help. One of the things that has gotten me through this is humor. My colleagues and I have continually ribbed each other and joked around through this. I laugh to get me through the day and I cry for ten minutes in the shower at the end of the day.
As I talk to God about this, I have tried to get quiet and listen. What I hear is Him telling me to keep going. I really think my family was spared from this thing because God knew we could help so many. It doesn’t, however, mean that just because our home didn’t flood, we still aren’t traumatized.
So to my friends and family members whom I’ve seemed to ignore these past few days, who’s group text messages have aggravated me to the point where I seemed disrespectful, I say that I do love you with every fiber of my heart. If I sound tired, I am. If I sound overwhelmed, I am. If I sound frustrated and cross, I am. It doesn’t mean I love you any less. I do know that I will get up early tomorrow and do it again because there are people that need me.