Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Your whole world can change in a flash.

We know this, deep in our hearts, but don't really know what it means until we see it first-hand, or have it happen to us. We witness the devastation that once was an orderly life and wonder what to do next. Then we look to our friends, and hope we've chosen well.

Yesterday my husband Bob came home from work early. Our yard backs up to a small creek, and since torrential rains have dumped a foot of water in our neighborhood in the past few days, he wanted to get home to check on things. He noticed that water was puddling in the front yard of two of our neighbors, and went to check on them after he'd found nothing amiss at our home. One set of neighbors wasn't home, but the other neighbor was, and he was getting a little bit of water under a sliding glass door. The two men came back to our house to get the big shop vac and by the time they got back, the little trickle of water had become a stream. Bob went to another neighbor's house to borrow another shop vac and in the space of about three or four minutes returned to find that the water had risen to knee-high and our neighbor was trapped inside.

With both of them working on it, they finally got a door open. As the water rose rapidly, Larry and Bob dashed up the driveway to higher ground. If things floated close enough, they would snag what they could: a pair of golf sandals, a plastic case containing barbecue tools, a partial case of bottled water. Other things floated out of reach: the extra leaf from the kitchen table, a separated pair of golf shoes, a cushion off of a chair. The water looked like Yoo Hoo and churned around and through both houses, carrying with it whatever it could.

In our neighborhood, it didn't sweep away any people. In other areas around Atlanta, it did. This morning's news reports that six are dead and many more are missing.

Larry has a lot of friends, and many, like Bob, showed up to see what could be done. One donned some improvised waders made of two plastic garbage bags and a pair of LL Bean muck boots and waded back into his house to get his medications, which had been left behind in his haste to escape the rapidly rising water. One gave him a place to stay for as long as he needs it, another offered his car, since Larry's was in the shop and the rental car was submerged in the garage. A case of Miller Lite was found floating, and that was snagged for Larry, too - his beverage of choice was rescued, at least, which made him laugh out loud when he saw it. To be able to laugh at a time like this is so valuable, so whether the beer is drunk or not, it's rescue served a noble cause.

In the midst of this, the other pair of neighbors returned home and were shocked to see that the tidy house they left yesterday morning was filled with two and a half feet of water from the normally-tiny creek behind the house. The friends and neighbors again started helping: the improvised waders were transferred to the wife and guys started going in to help the couple see what they could salvage, as well as get their needed items out of the house.

Community means a lot on a good day. On a really bad day, you discover what your community - your friends and neighbors - are made of. From what I witnessed yesterday afternoon, Bob and I are blessed with very caring friends. I wish the same for you, and hope your friendships aren't tested in such a drastic way.