by Frances Edstrom
How do I sum up a year like 2007"especially when it hasn't even yet summed up itself? When disastrous changes occur, as they did in the floods of August, it takes a long, long time for us to recover. The snow might cover the ravaged stream banks, the piles of debris may be hauled away, the houses might have new windows and walls, but even if we have survived with our lives and those we love, life is never the same.
I still think of a pair of my grandmother's earrings that my grandfather gave me after she died. They were stolen from my gym locker in college, and the loss still plucks a string in my heart. I imagine that feeling "” multiplied by an infinite number "” must be what it is like to have just some or maybe all of your possessions stolen from you by the flood, a thing you could not guard against or even really anticipate.
Many people are back in their homes in time for the holidays, but many are still in rented houses, relatives' houses or FEMA trailers. Some are still in financial limbo, unable to recover or rebuild what they had or even approximate a stable economic position again. How can they not wake in the bleak darkness of an already sleepless night and wonder over and over, "Why us? What will we do?"
I have to also mention the reaction to this disaster from those only slightly or not at all affected by the floods themselves. We can rightly feel pride in the selfless way in which area citizens came to help those who were flooded. The reaction matched the swiftness and magnitude of the flood waters themselves. In fact the desire of our citizens to help reached a fever pitch well before the usual avenues of aid, both private and government, were able to become organized enough to use the help. We owe much to our local United Way and director Beth Moe for stepping into the void to accept donations of money and goods until those other groups could mobilize.
Even when the formal organizations were up and running, it became clear that there must be some heavy thought that goes into planning for the event of another such disaster, especially in the area of communication. The government response, although well-meaning and fairly well organized, gives one pause when we think of what it might be like for them to be in charge of our entire health care delivery system, it was so full of bureaucracy and paper-pushing. Many people are still waiting to see what government can do for them.
Most of the real help came from relatives, neighbors, friends, fellow church members and private philanthropic groups. And to make that work, those who were affected by the flood, lost possessions and homes, had to step up to the plate and ultimately take responsibility for their own recovery.
What must it be like to be homeless and have to quickly be able to tell people what it is you need most? I shudder now when I think that I called a friend and put her on the spot asking what they needed. But she and her husband, who barely escaped with their lives, were able to think of the hardship being borne by her parents to shelter and feed them, and ask for food for them. It was a scenario played out over and over. Unlike the Katrina floods, where people walked away from the responsibility for their property and well-being and that of their neighbors, in the Winona area, people stayed, accepted the burden handed them by fate, and can be credited with helping the entire area achieve some sense of normalcy.
Things will never be the same, and they may not be better than they were. But we must applaud those who have spent a third of 2007 and who are prepared to spend much of the coming year working through this tragedy. They are the people who make our lives here in the Winona area so rich and worthwhile.
Thank you and please accept our prayers for a better year to come.