Today I drove through a region that, just 14 months ago, was ravaged by horrific floods. Much rebuilding has been done but the town, especially the center of the village, will never be the same. Many small businesses lost, many homes condemned, historic places now damaged beyond repair.
Yet around us the seasons keep changing. Time goes on.
Today was a lovely fall day. The sun was shining in a partly cloudy sky and the trees were bright with color – shades of green turning to yellow, orange, and even some red. The creek that flooded so incredibly on that day was down to a mild flow after a very dry summer.
As I drove through the center of town I turned onto a rode I was unfamiliar with, following it through another neighborhood. I came to a narrow, one-way bridge and marveled again that this small creek could have wreaked such havoc on the community. But, as we all know, it’s not just one creek. It is many factors. In this case, a dam burst farther upstream causing the creek to overflow profoundly, creating an historic '500 year flood' with incredible amounts of damage to this particular valley.
As I passed over the bridge I saw a blue & white sign by the road that said “Flood Evacuation Route.” Never having lived in a flood zone, this sign was new to me. As I continued on the road I quickly realized why this particular way was the evacuation route. The road quickly became very steep as it wound up the mountainside.
With the weather being as beautiful as it was today, my first thought was, “I can’t wait to get to the top so I can see the view of the valley and all the foliage!” Then I saw another “Flood Evacuation Route” sign and I started thinking about the families that had made this trek fourteen months earlier with everything they could grab from their homes before the flood waters got too high, leaving them without a way of escape.
They didn't have much time. Those flood waters came FAST. Dams don’t break slowly so you can have time to pack up your things.
Today was a day of very mixed feelings. I did enjoy the drive back down the mountain. It is a truly beautiful valley. And I know many people that live there. They have worked hard this past fourteen months to rebuild their homes and their community and they do not want our pity. They have lost much, but many of them have gained incredibly deep perspective and even deeper appreciation for life and loved ones.
And that is what I end with today. In life, floods come. Disaster comes. Sometimes we see it coming and can prepare, but most often it blindsides us. We can let it destroy us, or we can come back stronger. Coming back stronger doesn't mean you don’t cry, don’t feel pain, or take time to mourn your loss. We are human after all, and those are necessary parts of healing. But afterwards, we know we can make it through.
Because we already have.