I can hardly believe it's been ten years. It seems like only yesterday that the rains came and affected so many of us. It was a trying time, but one that brings a lot of fond memories as well, a time that brought out the best in so many people.
I was living in Ludlow, Kentucky then, in a small apartment on the first floor of a house at the end of Butler St. The old timers said that the river hadn't been that high since 1937, so I didn't feel like it would come up there again any time soon. I had been at a concert at Landmark Baptist Church up near Evendale and was heading home that evening and it seemed like the rain was coming a bit hard. I didn't think much of it until the next morning I woke up and heard that Falmouth was under water. I took a look outside and the river was coming up pretty high, which got my attention somewhat, at least enough to see what the weather people on the news channels were saying about it. It didn't rise much that day or the next, but it was still looking threatening. March 2, a Sunday if I remember right, saw little change but the weather people were saying that it would rise a couple feet on Monday and probably crest on Wednesday close to 60'.
Well, I did what a lot of stupid people have done over the years; I believed the weather people. If it only came up a couple feet that day like they said, I was in no danger, so I hopped the bus to my job at 311 Elm St. downtown. I had a desk by a window and when later that morning I could see the river coming up around Castellini's warehouses, (where Paul Brown Stadium is now) I knew that the weather people had been wrong and that my place was in danger. A co-worker drove me home and the place where my car had been parked was already under water. Luckily the police had the car towed before the water got it though, so I was able to retrieve it later.
I went back to work that day and then took a bus to retrieve my car. I had to pay $75 for the tow but eventually I got the car out and managed to get to my apartment. By then the water was already in the yard, but not in the building yet, so I worked frantically to salvage what I could, starting with my two rather distraught cats. I filled the car with what I could fit in there, put some other things onto higher shelves, and then locked up and left. My boss had offered to take me in so I showed up at her doorstep and spent a week at her house until a couple from my church made a place for me in their basement. I lived with that couple until May when I was able to pool the money from FEMA with a couple paychecks and find another place.
Going back was an experience I will never forget. I walked into the apartment after the water receded to see what I could salvage. The stench hit me like a brick wall and I nearly threw up. There was mud everywhere. The waterline on the wall showed that the water had been at a depth of four feet inside. All my furniture was ruined along with a few things I hadn't managed to get out of the closet. The next thing that hit me was just how many people were there helping one another out. There were several people down there with shovels who were assisting many of us with recovering what we could and helping the homeowners clean up. Many of those people had not been personally affected by the flood, but they were there to help. I was touched.
What did I learn? Things are just things. They don't really matter. You can lose all your possessions but those things can be replaced. People can be real jerks sometimes, but when tragedy hits, those same people can exhibit such selfless generosity that it gives you hope that the goodness of mankind might actually exist after all. I think back to all the people who helped me through that time, to Buddy and Jenny Day who opened up their home to me, to the nameless people who showed up with shovels, garbage bags, and sympathy, the latter being the most treasured, to all those people at the church who gave me so many things to help me get back on my feet, and even the quick thinking cop who got my car towed when the water was already hitting the tires. There are so many people I can't even begin to name, let alone picture their faces, but I owe them all my thanks.
So today, as I often do on this date every year since, I think back to that week and there are so many mixed emotions. There are tears and smiles and hope and joy and sadness all mixed up in some unable to name emotion. I shed tears for those who lost their lives, but also tears of joy when I remember all of the goodness that I saw from so many. So if any of you helped out someone who was affected, even if it wasn't me, I thank you. Those you touched will never forget you.