Clark County is going under water.
I don?t know if I actually remember hearing the painful announcement over the static-filled radio or if I?ve just heard my dad tell the story enough times it?s lodged in my brain like a memory. But that?s how it started for us, the Flood of 1993.
Clark County, our home, was in imminent danger of going under water.
We ? my parents, sister and myself ? were on our first family vacation. We left the farm-rich lands of our home, nestled between the Des Moines and Missississi rivers, to spend a few days in Springfield, Mo., where they had a Bass Pro Shop. There?s little I remember from this vacation. I don?t remember Dad buying his first kayak, or the fact that he almost got a few Bass Pro Shop employees fired because he insisted on testing out the kayaks, in the store?s fountain no less (he always notes they had so many kayak sales that weekend).
What I do remember is the drive to Springfield. Jenny, my sister, turned the bed of the truck into a sort of oasis for our long drive. The topper had been put on the bed of the truck and an air mattress laid in the back; we turned it into a mobile blanket fort of sorts. Mom passed snacks and juice boxes through the sliding back window and miles stretched on as we listened to Reba McEntire in Jenny?s cassette player.
An alert from Missouri News Net ended our vacation. The broadcaster reported two levees were in danger of failing, which would lead to most of Clark County being swept away by the river. There was no music, no lighthearted banter and very few juice boxes (no time for bathroom breaks) on the aganozing ride home. We listened to report after report detailing the dire conditions we were driving head first toward.
There are two things I remember as Dad eased our two-tone 1980-something Chevy truck to a stop at the intersection of Highway 61 and 136 ? our collective sigh to find Wayland, Mo., our home, was still there. Dry as a bone. And the stench of the flood ? moldy corn and dead fish.
We were barely home for a minute when Mom and Dad left my teenage sister in charge and headed for Alexandria, Mo., better known as Alac to the locals, which lies right on the Mississippi River, to sandbag. ?There were a lot of people there sandbagging that didn?t have anything to lose. It wasn?t their house they were trying to save, they didn?t have family there, they were just trying to help,? Dad recalled over a recent phone call.
Dad recalled one afternoon, working alongside a friend when they noticed National Guard members tying loops into a bit of rope, a snag line. ?That?s too big to snag any fish,? Dad recalled his friend saying. The line wasn?t to snag fish, but people should the levy break. ?If that wall broke they were going to drive those five-ton truck out of there and they weren?t stopping. It?s kind of a scary thought.?
The levees in Alexandria failed on July 8. The Mississippi River fufillied her destiny of a 500- year flood and Alexandria never recovered.
The fire station in Wayland was set up as a community dining hall. It?s actually where I met my best friend, Brad. His family, like most in Alexandria, lost everything, including his goldfish. We talked about that a lot in Kindergarten the next year. The wounds of the summer before still fresh in everyone?s minds.
Those who did go back to Alexandria weren?t allowed in until September or October of 1993. Only half of the population did. The town of 341 remains stagnant with a population of 166.
But as I think about the 25th anniversary of the Flood of 1993, the 10-year anniversary of the Flood of 2008 and other disasters natural or man-made, I think about what my dad said. I think about all the people who had nothing to lose working as if their lives depended on it. And that reminds me of something Mr. Rogers said about when he saw scary things in the news. ?Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.?