by Shelly Preszler
Exhaustion. There’s really no other way to describe it. It had been the busiest May our family had ever experienced. We had everything from a college graduation, prom, confirmation, and a birthday party, and that was only one weekend alone.
The third weekend in May wasn’t much better, as our son Jonathan graduated from high school, and we also celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. I remember vaguely hearing one of my friends mention the word, sandbagging, at our son’s graduation party. However I was knee deep in the chocolate fountain by that time and didn’t give the discussion much thought at all!
We tumbled into bed early that next Monday night, too tired to care about anything but a decent night’s sleep when the phone rang. I could hear desperation on the other end as one of our friends begged Todd to please come and help sandbag another friend’s home. Sandbag? Was she serious? Was the threat of flooding that real and imminent? I thought to myself. Todd got up to leave and within three days the reality of the situation began to sink in when a group of St. Mary’s High School kids sandbagged our home, too.
This summer seemed so surreal. Everyone was begging for spring to arrive after surviving a horrendous winter, only to be followed by a treacherous summer of sandbagging and trying to stay ‘high and dry.’
Nadine Glur remembers that beautiful day in May extremely well. She was happily planting her first garden in their backyard. Like everyone on that Sunday, she too, was enjoying the warmth of the sun. It was during that afternoon she also received word about the impending flood. “It started out slow but it sure went fast,” Nadine recalls.
Her husband, Doug, came up with a plan, which they both agreed to follow. “I remember random people showed up from our church to help. Doug’s boss also called to see if he could help. The generosity of people was just overwhelming!” Nadine stated. The only time worry set in was when they remained idle.
Plans seemed to change daily as they began the process of building a dike with sandbags. What started out as a two- foot sandbag dike mushroomed into a six- foot high earthen dike. It became apparent that for their family’s safety they would need to leave their home.
When they attended church services Memorial Day weekend, Nadine noticed other members bringing their household possessions to be stored at the church or in other people’s homes. At that point, congregation members urged her to remove their belongings as well. She wondered how that could work with their huge dike already in place. A friend of theirs, who owned a roofing company, had just the answer. He set up a ramp over the dike, allowing them to move their furniture to higher ground.
At that moment Nadine was in awe of the wonderful people in her life! She and her family left their home that weekend. But before she could leave she knew she had one more thing to do. She went into her garage, found some boards and leftover paint, and quickly wrote the phrase, “In God’s Hands.” She then nailed it to a tree in their front yard and it gave her peace. At that moment Nadine thought to herself, “Ok, God, whatever you have, we’re ok with it. We did our best.” Little did Nadine know that her sign would become one of hope and peace for her neighbors and the community as well.
As Nadine was leaving, her neighbor, Isabel Hernaiz-Fernandez, was just returning home from visiting family in Mexico City. She had heard about the flood from her husband, Patricio, and son, Patrick, but nothing could prepare her for the sight she saw when she returned.
“ I came home to a husband who was tanned, thin, and muscular!” Isabel joked. He was extremely busy sandbagging and keeping their sump pumps going. They had not met a lot of their neighbors prior to the flood, but they knew all of them now. Fortunately, their family was able to stay in their home during the flood fight. It was quiet in their neighborhood, and Patricio would take Isabel out for rides on their four-wheeler. Isabel always took her camera along on those rides. “I was angry at the time. I felt so trapped by the river,” Isabel recalled. She and her husband would pray for people and their homes as they passed by them.
One night they came across the sign, “In God’s Hands.” Isabel thought to herself. This family has got it right. It gave her the peace she needed to keep going.
Isabel often waited for the sun to set and would begin to take pictures of nature during the flood. “It gave me a purpose, and it challenged me to look for the beauty in the midst of pain,” she stated.
When Isabel had the pictures developed she was struck by how beautiful nature was even in the midst of the flood. She decided to make the pictures into a calendar. She wondered if there was a way that this calendar could help benefit others who had been affected by the flood.
In discussing her idea with friends, they all seemed very supportive of her idea of producing the calendar to sell and donating the proceeds to area flood victims.
Consequently, the calendars will be on display in October at Bob’s Photo, all Kirkwood Bank locations, and Walkers N’ Daughters Jewelers in the Kirkwood Mall. Proceeds from the Flood Fight Calendar will be given to the local United Way to aid flood victims based on need. The calendars could make a wonderful Christmas gift for friends and family members who want to help those still struggling from the flood damage.
All three of us were amazed by community spirit during this flood fight. People truly worked together to help one another under a very stressful situation. It reminded us of the Golden Rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” We all agreed that it was a miracle that there was no loss of life due to the flood.
I believe that both Isabel and Nadine responded to the circumstances of the flood with trust and gratitude. They inspired me to look for the beauty all around, whether in a kind face of a stranger or friend, or in the wondrous awe of nature itself.
Shelly Preszler resides in Mandan where the West begins and friendly folk are plentiful.