"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
July 19, 2014
High Water
by Hannah Bird

On Tuesday afternoon, I got a phone call from our Bonnie. Her voice was urgent, the phone number she was calling from was not her own. “The house is filling up with water. It blew out the window. I need — ” By then I was already on my way.

She has rented her house for years. It has never been well maintained. We once waited three years for a front door that opened. I assumed the plumbing had failed spectacularly.

I could not imagine what else it would be. Our house is 15 minutes away and we had enjoyed a lovely bright summer day.

When I got to her street in Rexburg, I was dumbfounded. The four-lane road was a river. The water was swamping cars. I could see it but not believe it.

I made my way to Bonnie’s house and found her standing on her steps in her bathrobe. Many of her possessions had been dragged onto the front porch. I waded through calf-high water to get to her.

As I passed I saw that the basement apartment had been flooded. Broken glass still hung in the frame. It rained. A microburst had hit. Rain dumped furiously on one tiny spot in our high desert. The damage was terrible and random. The two homes we own across the street from Bonnie were untouched except for a little hail in the yard. On the other side of the street, house after house was flooded.  

Bonnie’s basement was flooded to the roof. Again and again, I opened the basement door to confirm that I had seen the water filling the basement and stairwell.

It was awful. And amazing.

When I arrived, Bonnie was surrounded by college boys. They were soaking wet and freezing. One was wet to his head. They had gone into the basement again and again as the water rose, helping the downstairs tenant salvage what she could. When the windows burst, they moved onto helping Bonnie.

They didn’t know her. They saw the floods and went out into the water to see who they could help. They were not alone. The street rivers teemed with packs of students. Some brought muscles. Some carried empty wastebaskets and Tupperware.

Students saved possessions. They pushed out stalled or stuck cars. They formed bucket brigades and started bailing. They held back the rivers with whatever they had.

In the family neighborhoods, the picture was different but the same. My sister-in-law was losing the fight to keep the water out when her neighbor appeared. He stood in the window well bailing out the water in a five-gallon bucket until the water subsided. Another neighbor arrived with an extension for her rain gutters to move the run off away.

The man bailing water had a home that was completely flooded. He figured there was nothing he could do about that. So he helped others.

The storm ended. The mess remained. There is damage everywhere.

But the help has remained.

A random student couple loaded up Bonnie’s freezer. Passersby helped us load up Bonnie’s food storage when it began to rain again. Neighbors have worked together and dragged out ruined carpets. Not everyone has flood insurance, so neighbors have worked together to tear out sheetrock and fix other damage.

I have thought a lot about those girls, wading from house to house with their Tupperware and garbage pails. I thought about their mothers and fathers. They bought their girls those things and they worried. Will she be all right? Will she remember to take the garbage out? Will she remember to eat properly? Will she know what to do?

The waters rose but so did those young women. There was a flood of water and debris. But there was also a flood of young men with strong backs. The damage remains but so do the neighbors who are feeding each other and carrying one another’s burdens along with sheetrock and waterlogged furniture.

High water comes to wash away and destroy. We have plastic tubs and buckets. And each other. Bring on the rain.

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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