Though this is based on a true story, the characters are not known to any reader. But it needs to be told in order to grasp the depth of pain and grief which flooding and other disasters can cause.
Only Two Arms
After several days of slow frightful dread and anticipation, the storm seemed so close. 16 inches of rain in one day! Before the power went off we kept hearing more and more unbelievable stories about what was happening in the wake of the hurricane.
Then a friend dropped in for a chat. I knew it was bad just from her posture. She hesitantly grabbed at my arm, as if unsure if this conversation could be had. She had my full attention:
She said what we both knew – the rain had been non-stop.
She told how she had kept an eye out for her husband to return from an out-of-town job till the phone rang. His voice was disappointing: he was rained in half way home, and it didn’t look good. So she started facing the fact that she was alone in the storm with her two children.
They watched TV till the power went off. The kids had gone asleep some time before. She kept watching the water, yet feeling safe since they lived on high ground where there had never even been ponding, much less flooding.
Leaving the kids where they dozed off gave her some company. After several hours she began to see water out in the field where it had never been before. But she reassured herself that they were on unusually high ground.
Still she kept looking out the window. The rain subsided some, and she could see the water had risen quite a bit more. Fear and the need for wisdom gripped her and she rounded up some supplies and snacks. After all, they could all go upstairs.
Getting things together took about an hour. She happened to glance out and it took her breath away. The sheen was now on the edge of her yard. How could it rise so fast? She’d been in many storms, and this property had never even started to flood in any way!
The more she thought, she remembered Katrina and decided she might get trapped upstairs if the water continued rising. She remembered they had an old pickup parked on the hill out back. She grabbed her supplies in a backpack and hoisted a kid in each arm, heading for the truck. Keeping her voice calm, they had no fear and returned to sleep as soon as they reached the cab of the large truck.
Now she felt safe. The house seemed so far down from this high perch. She napped a bit, absorbing the calmness of the moment and feeling she had done the right thing.
She awoke with a start and wet feet. How could that happen? Then she saw it, water all around. After a moment of panic, she did the only thing left to do. She shouldered the backpack of supplies and took a child in each arm — up to the top of the truck. The kids were awake now and the act of hushing them also served to calm her.
As the water rose over the next couple of hours, she finally faced the fact that rescue might not make it in time.
She tried to puzzle out how she could proceed, and seemed to hit a wall in her thinking. Then from deep in her gut a sickening thought arose. Maybe she’d only be able to save one child in one arm while she swam with the other!
No! Tears would not stop as she clutched her two children, not being able to even consider such a horrifying thought. Her jaws tightened as she flinched at the idea.
This mom kept trying to think her way out of the situation but nothing came – no other solutions seemed to be available. Yet no mom – EVER – should have to face a choice between the two children she had birthed and loved all those years.
As she was becoming short of breath from all the stress and stark fear, she thought she heard something. But there was only darkness. She felt her mind was playing tricks on her.
Then she heard it, the motorboat! In just moments the kids were safe in blankets and they were taken to safety.
But she couldn’t just drop it and relax. She was overcome by how close she had come to having to make a choice between her two young children. It took far longer to get past that horror in her mind than it took for the waters to recede and rebuilding and restarting their lives.
I encouraged friends and acquaintances to bring clothes and other items to help them make another start. No doubt that helped, and the kids moved past the worst night of their mother’s life since they had spent most of it sleeping anyway.
But the mom had a longer trip to make in her healing. She had to return to daily living but there was that specter of guilt in her mind. Hugs and reassurances helped some, but it was indeed a long way back.
The next time you hear of a natural disaster remember there is nothing natural about it. Do what you can to help, and cherish each moment you have with loved ones. Give to the Red Cross and help others when needed.
Because no one should have to experience anything like this Almost Texas Titanic!
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission from author for use online or in print.