Thursday, January 13, 2011

Queensland Floods - Thoughts

I might make this private, I don't know yet.

My thoughts are muddled, I don't know what to think. Driving around the morning searching for yet another missing persons house hoping to see the roof and being unable. The only vantage point I could get was blocked off to me by police, who wouldn't even let me near the area to see. I came back to my husband, who I had dropped off to help the neighbourhood of Goodna as I did my search.

Together we cleaned. And cleaned. You are not prepared to see the inside - you're never prepared. The outside is bad enough - everything is brown up to a certain height, and then it's normal. It's like a moment of Kansas with Oz just floating above it. As I started washing things I started realizing they weren't dead. Trees were vibrant and green once given a little rinse; grass was long and bright once washed.

The inside, however, is shocking. Fallen ceilings look nothing like you think they will. Ceiling insulation swells and gets heavy and drops onto the ground in thick heavy sheets. Sheets that break apart easily but are so heavy individually. The insulation is completely indiscernable from mud. The entire house looks like it's covered in six inches of mud while it's just thick wet soggy ceiling materials.

Some things are just absolutely surreal. Bathrooms with part of the door on the toilet and the rest in the ceiling. Somehow, stainless steel tells the truth and while a steel teapot may be filled with mud, it's shininess stands out like a beacon in all the filth.

The things that survive surprise you. Large heavy objects completely distroyed while entire cabinents full of expensive bone china survive - every last piece. I gave two different women from two different home their entire tea sets.

The things on roofs surprise you - a fridge, a bench, an entire table still set for dinner somehow managed to make it onto a roof - cutlery, candlesticks and everything. 3 out of the 4 chairs managed to join it as well. You go up to all the neighbours and ask them politely, "Do you know who's couch is on #16's roof?" Nobody does.

The jokes make things easier. A man picked up a filthy telephone from the wreckage and says to me, "Hold the phone!" At some point I am raking rubbish out of the house and he says to me, "Give me more shit!" I reply, "Honey, I'm a woman, I can give you shit!" and he replies once more, "Well this'll be the only time a man takes your shit!" My husband shouts from another room, "I agree!" and I reply to him, "When did I say you could have an opinion!?" It continues like this for nearly the entire day. Jokes about installing full-size windows and waterfront property abound.

I have renewed faith in humanity. Neighbours help neighbours. Strangers feed and bandage strangers. A woman cried as she told me how she went to a shop to buy shoes and the shop said she could have anything she wanted, anything at all. She only took the shoes she came in for and even then, she could barely take them. Nobody denies help - nobody. They think about it for a second sometimes and you can tell it's out of natural reaction but they pause... they know their natural reaction in this situation won't help them at all - socially polite nuances of denying help are gone. Yes, help. Please, start here. Or here.

The thing is, each tiny little thing you do is an experience all in it's own - it's not all an experience. So when people ask you how you went, you really don't know how to answer. This part was excellent. This part was okay. This part was horrible. This part I pretended I didn't see. This part I can never forget I saw. All together? I don't know... it just was. It just was what it was.


  1. beautiful. i wish i was there to help :(

    i dont think you should make this private hun. These are the human experiences that NEED to be shared.

  2. I dont think you should make this private either. You write very well and first hand experience tells it much better than the news casters. By the way,how are your chickens doing?

  3. Thank you - I just feel really guilty writing as a volunteer instead of a victim. Like I have no right to say this feels the way it does when so many have lost so much more than me. I'm not the hurt one here, so I should keep my head down, do my work and be quiet, you know?

    Thank you for asking, the chickens made it just fine, if not a bit soggy and annoyed. <3