Simply devastating...

I really, really don't know where to start with this update, or how to convey it, so I am going to try and be pretty matter-of-fact.  
I know a lot of people are reeling from the images they're seeing in the media or before their own eyes in Brisbane, Toowoomba and across the rest of Queensland affected by flooding. I also know my story is not even close to being up there with the worst of them really, but I thought it was worth sharing, at least for my own sake.

I grew up in the big-country-town of Brissie.  My childhood home, where my Mum still lives, is in one of the flood zones.  The pics in this post are from around this very 'hood*. Mum evacuated on Tuesday night in plenty of time with the "memory box" (i.e. as in the old school version meaning a big chest of photos etc), clothes and a few other belongings, but by the time she tried to go back in the early hours of Wednesday, the water had risen too quickly to get back to the house and rescue anything more.  Based on the initial predictions, there was a very real chance the house would go completely under.  

We spent the next 36 hours or so not knowing how bad it was going to be. For me, this involved following it all from afar in Melbourne via the phone, tv screen, news websites, twitter, facebook, you name it.  All the while wishing for, and at the same time dreading, a glimpse of my home suburb.  As much as I wanted to be there to do something to help, I also just wanted to be there to give my Mum a really big hug.

This afternoon, we got some (relatively) good news via a neighbour who'd been into the area with a dinghy.  Based on what he relayed regarding the high water mark, we may have escaped with only one metre of water through the house (fingers and toes crossed).  Considering in the image above you can see houses which are on the next block over only have the roof showing, this is a blessing.  We won't know for sure until the waters recede enough to go back in, but the news is definitely better than we were preparing ourselves for.

To give you an idea of how quickly things changed, note the tall pinkish sign on the mid/ top left of this photo?...

... this was that sign from the other side around 24 hours later

It sounds cliched, but it's been a rollercoaster of emotions for me over the past few days, and I know that's nothing compared to what it's been like for Mum or others on the ground directly affected.  I know it's just a house and the things in it are just stuff, but the magnitude and helplessness of the situation is heart-wrenching.

My Mum will be fine.  Obviously, it's most important that she's safe and well. With a bit of luck, the house itself should hold up ok,  and everything she packed high in the house will be saved.  There'll be a lot of work to do cleaning up and repairing, but she's got a lot of support. I've been blown away by the offers of help she, my brother and I have received.  

Clearly, not everyone affected is in the same position.  I've never pushed a cause publicly before, but if you're in a position to do so, you can provide financial support through the Premier's Disaster Relief Appeal.  I've been pretty inspired to see and hear some pretty inspiring and diverse efforts going on to support this appeal, including a gig at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne featuring Washington, Dan Sultan, Tim Rogers and more, and an amazing array of initiatives being undertaken by the bloggy-craft-design world (props to Pip from Meet Me at Mikes for putting this very thorough list together).  I've also noticed a lot of small and large businesses are pledging to donate their profits, from Third Drawer Down to Mimco. And I was also impressed to see Virgin's Blue's Velocity program is allowing you to turn your reward points into cash donations at a very fair rate of conversion.  I'm sure there's many, many other worthwhile initiatives, and I know many people already provide a lot of support to people in need, but I couldn't not give it a big plug.

As I said, I know my story is nothing compared to others out there, but I felt like I needed to share it, as much as a cathartic measure for myself as to hopefully provide something of a personal connection to it for people out there grappling to deal with what's unfolded on the tv or computer screen.

Before I go, a couple of other very random observations from the past couple of days:
  • It's being said by many others, but Anna Bligh has shown herself to be a genuine and inspiring leader.  I don't know if I have ever seen such real honesty, integrating and care in a politician before.
  • The Queensland Police Media Unit are social media stars.  Honestly, a brilliant job, particularly with the myth busting.
  • I know a lot of people really love animals, but wow, the amount of activity on twitter regarding the RSPCA in Fairfield needing to evacuate animals was staggering.  I think people are still posting it, two days after it was repeatedly broadcast that all the animals had been fostered out.
  • John Birmingham is my voice of Brisbane, from my youth, and today. This article for The Age and this one for Brisbane Times are truly evocative.  
  • My little bro' is much braver than I ever realised and I am very proud of him.
  • My Mum is stronger than I could ever have imagined.
To all the friends and family who might be reading this, including those in Brissie who've offered their house/ car/ trailer/ surf ski (yes!), and those who've been emailing/ calling/ facebooking from afar, what can I say guys, you're amaaaazing.  

To everyone else, I hope you and your loved ones are high and dry (in a good way), or have a little glimmer of luck shine on you too.

My plan from here is to head north as soon as the waters recede enough to help with the clean up and give Mum that big hug.

Simply yours,

* apologies for the lack of credits for the photos.  I saved them as I trawled news sites and twitter and in my haze I didn't think to note where and who they were for from.  If by some chance any of them are yours, please let me know and I will happily credit for them, or take them down if you prefer.


tess said...

i think all ex-brisbanites in our adopted city of Melbourne (and there are a lot!) are feeling the exact same way you are at the moment. happy to hear your fam are staying strong, despite everything. it seems too unreal, but i agree the govt, SES & police response has been exceptional and proves without that high standard things could have been so, so much worse on the ground. x tess

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that Phoebe. It is simply wonderful to share your personal response heart ache, concern and relief.