It turns out, I write a lot about Mother Nature. I refer to her to a fair amount, and we are legit on the outs with each other. It also turns out, a lot of other people are on the outs with her too. The entire state of Oklahoma, anyone living on or near the Arkansas River and Mississippi River, Frederick County and Howard County, Maryland, Nebraska. Pennsylvania is getting slammed as I type this. The list of places getting hit with flooding is overwhelming, and each time I see a new one, I know exactly how they all feel – sad, frustrated, angry, scared, exhausted – the list is endless. It’s a vicious cycle of emotions.
This past Monday marked the one year anniversary of the Old Ellicott City (OEC) 2018 flash flood. The flood claimed one life, all hope, and millions of dollars in losses. Water has no mercy. On Sunday, I was reflecting on how I felt about the first anniversary of the previous flood. It was a triumphant moment. Against great odds, our little community persevered, and began to return to normal. (FEMA stats averaged OEC would recover in 10 years. Let’s just say this community is always up for proving the odds wrong.) There was no triumphant moment on Monday. I wanted to wallow in my own self-pity. I wanted to shout from the roof tops that the year had past, as much I as wanted to stay silent. It wasn’t our day of remembrance.
There was really only one thing to do that day, and it was to spend time with those that lived it, survived it, and against all odds haven’t given up on this old town. On our way to meet our OEC family, along one of the bridges in town, there was a commemoration of the year that had passed. LT and I stopped for a moment. Each day for weeks on end, access to volunteers (God bless these amazing people), contractors, employees, business owners, and property owners was granted by a paper band. They changed each day, and so it was only fitting that after weeks of collecting the bands, we marked this moment with them.
LT picked up a marker and wrote, “No more floods in OEC.”
Being human, and managing all the feelings is hard. Really. Hard. Being a parent, and managing all the feelings, and helping your kids manage their feelings is – I don’t know – Really. Freaking. Screwed. Up. Sometimes.
They both love this town. They love the shops. They love the people. They have their own memories, and their own heartache. It was just a few weeks ago as we drove thru – and for those, that don’t live here, and may have never seen this special town – after a year, a large section of it is still boarded up. The three of us drive thru every day going to school.
As I was saying, it was just a few weeks ago as we drove thru L2 piped up with, “Mom, this flood was so much worse than the last one. So many buildings are still boarded up.” I had the pleasure of explaining that it was because some of them would eventually be taken down. I had tried so desperately to shield them from so much of my own pain, that I had neglected to explain what the longterm outcome would be. Like I said. Really. Freaking. Screwed. Up.
They now know when it rains hard, or my phone beeps because of a severe thunderstorm watch, or tornado warning, it means the town they love is potentially at risk. They know a lot of time has been taken away from them and our family as I attend meetings, hearings, watershed tours, and more. They know their mom is a firm believer that one small change can make a difference, so I (along with them) just keep pushing for change.
In the dark of the night, I grabbed a piece of sidewalk chalk and started doing the thing I love most. I wrote. I wrote these words for every person that dreamt of owning a business, and then chose OEC to do just that. I wrote this for every business that was lost in 2016 and 2018. I wrote this for the four lives lost, needlessly so. I wrote this for every volunteer that pushed us forward when we couldn’t push ourselves. I wrote this for every county employee and quasi county employee that received a phone call, a text, an email with harsh demands for a better tomorrow. I wrote this for two boys, watching their momma fighting for what’s right. I wrote this for Chef, who in my darkest hours, is my greatest champion. I wrote this for my OEC family, near and far. I wrote this knowing a new chapter is coming.
There once was a dream
Into a commUNITY!
All was not lost
Even thru floods
A new chapter is born