Flooding in Lumsden, Manitoba (Photo Credit: David Stobbe, Reuters)
Although wreaking havoc and presenting immense challenges, natural disasters allow us to better maintain perspective on the things that should matter most. The record-breaking floods now affecting many areas of Canada, including Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, and the similar flooding to the south that is inundating major swaths of the Mississippi River valley serve as powerful reminders of nature’s force and our inability to bend it to our will. In an article about the floods near Louisiana, the reporter James Byrne on NOLa.com aptly quoted from T.S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages”:
I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
Is a strong brown god – sullen, untamed and intractable,
Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges.
The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten
By the dwellers in cities – ever, however, implacable.
Keeping his seasons, and rages, destroyer, reminder
Of what men choose to forget. Unhonoured, unpropitiated
By worshippers of the machine, but waiting, watching and waiting.
Flooding Near Bonnet Carre Spillway, Louisiana (Photo Credit: Brett Duke, Times Picayune)
The flooding also had me thinking about the experiences and emotions being shared by people north and south of our common border. In that spirit, I surveyed a variety of stories about the widespread flooding and below is a small sampling of quotes I found interesting from affected individuals in Canada and the U.S.
“It speaks to our spirit. Flooding is not pleasant . . . People put their best foot forward and deal with it. People tend to stay. This doesn’t drive people out of communities. If anything, it probably makes the community stronger when you have a (common) response to it.” Chuck Sanderson, Manitoba’s Emergency Measures Organization, quoted in the Leader-Post
“I don’t think they can afford this flood. I don’t think the government can pay for all the damage. It’s heartbreaking. We worked hard all our lives to get established, to take care of our families. Now this.” Glen Fossey, Starbuck, Manitoba, quoted in Winnipeg Free Press
“I don’t think I’m afraid. I just don’t know what to do.” Chris Yuill, Starbuck, Manitoba, quoted in Winnipeg Free Press
“It’s been very, very long. As long as the electricity keeps working, I can hang in till the end.” . . . She added it was heartening to see how people are helping each other out, including one volunteer who has been using his all-terrain vehicle and a wagon to provide a free taxi service through chest-deep water to the main road. Linda Durbeaum, St.-Paul-de-l’Ile-aux-Noix, Quebec, quoted in the Windsor Star
“In my lifetime, we’ve never seen anything like this. It’s going to be serious.” Ray Bittner, Manitoba Agriculture, quoted in the Windsor Star
“What I’ve seen in Shelby County over the past couple of weeks isn’t so much a rising river, it’s a rising community. . . . Wave after wave of volunteers show up asking ‘what can I do?’” Craig Strickland, Cordova, Tennessee, quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal
“When you live in an area like this, you sometimes forget the magnitude and awe of the river.” Susan Brown, Bartlett, Tennessee, quoted in the Memphis Commercial Appeal
“This is all I got. I’ll protect it the best I can.” Francis Cole, Popular Bluff, Missouri, quoted in the Aribiter
“I packed everything, and I mean ev-ry-thing. . . . It’s depressing. But what are you going to do? This is a resilient bunch of people, and I imagine the biggest part of them will come right back.” Terry Bower, Butte La Rose, Louisiana, quoted in NOLA.com