On Aug. 28, my town of Schoharie, along with several other villages, was flooded by Hurricane Irene. I live in Schoharie in one of the many houses that was washed out.
To many people, news of a flood is devastating. It is tear-jerking to see people's things piled on the side of the road waiting to be hauled to the dump and to see all of the ruined and soaked houses. Although all of this is bad and has affected me greatly, what I really got out of this memorable event is the love of a community and how much it means to pull together and work through the mud to find, once again, the house underneath. I will share my story of the flood with you so that you can see how having some faith, hope and perseverance can have a huge impact on your life.
It was the dreary morning of Aug. 28. My dad was on a trip to Michigan to see his family. Little did he know he'd have to come back so soon. My mom, two sisters and I sat around our TV waiting for the power to come back on so we could catch news of the hurricane. I didn't need the news. I looked outside and saw it was bad. The rain was falling in bucketfuls and the trees were doing backbends. Suddenly the power was back on; it had been flickering on and off all morning. After listening to the weatherman tell us it wasn't over yet, our telephone started to ring. My mom hastily picked it up. We needed to get out to higher ground; the town was evacuating everyone. My mom didn't want to take chances, so we gathered up some of our belongings, brought them upstairs, packed clothes and were on our way to my Grandma and Grandpa's house, which was on a hill, within an hour.
At our grandparents' house, we sat and waited" and waited. The only thing we knew by 8 p.m. was that the water level was steadily rising.
The next day my dad returned after an urgent phone call from my mom. Then my mom, my oldest sister and my dad ventured out to see the damage done. Of course even though it was my house, I wasn't allowed to go. Everyone told me it was for the best, but I was fuming. They just let me sit and worry all day. I wanted to see my house; no one's comforting words helped me then.
Five feet of water on the first floor, most belongings lost: This was the news for many families. I was sad and scared as we all picked out our food in silence. For days I wasn't allowed to go to our house, but when I did it was not a pretty sight. Mud covered everything in thick layers; sidewalks were buried under enormous piles of rubble. No one cracked a smile for days. Endless hours were spent working in a daze. Life almost seemed impossible -- almost.
Each and every day countless people came to help us. Some didn't even know us! They stood beside us and helped to pull us through this tough time and showed us we could get the work done. What helped me to realize the sky wasn't falling was the love these people showed us. For days, weeks and even months, they showed up on our doorstep asking what we need and what they could do to lighten our loads. Whether they cooked, cleaned or even let us stay in their house, they cared. If it hadn't been for all these extra hands that were willingly giving up their time for us, we wouldn't have made it home for Christmas.
All these people were the fuel for our engines. They helped us to see the light in the darkness, and although we were cleaning our houses, they brought happiness to our situation. We worked hard towards our goal in order to make their work and support worthwhile. Much of our town has been destroyed, but thanks to everyone who helped us, we're all trying to get back on our feet and into our houses.
My life has changed a great deal since Aug. 28. I have lived in someone else's home, experienced sorrow beyond what I had ever known and had to listen to my friends talk about the flood when all I wanted to do was forget about it. My life has changed, my house has been transformed but we are moving forward.
After living through this whole ordeal, I've realized that I don't want to have our town's people be known as flood victims, but instead as flood survivors. Change doesn't have to be a bad thing. I'm not saying I'd ever want to live in a flood again, but I have learned many life lessons that can only come, sometimes, with real-life trauma.