My story isn’t anything like those who have been directly impacted by the floods, but I wanted to share it.
My family & I are very lucky to have moved onto the hill at the end of last year, so our home is safe and we are all safe.
My partner & I are both born and bred in Lismore. We’ve grown up with the floods.
On Sunday we spent our day helping some friends businesses prepare for the flood. We had a lot of people asking us how big we thought it would get.
Honestly, our guts were telling us it would be big, we just couldn’t comprehend it being bigger than 2017.
At the time it felt more like a fear of history repeating itself, rather than our instinct. So we just told them to prepare for 2017, because surely it couldn’t happen again.
But Sunday night it just kept raining.
We barely slept.
We just kept feeling it was going to be bigger than we’d seen.
We could tell when we were downtown, the way the town was already flooding inside before Sunday afternoon.
We’ve never seen it come up so easily in the parts it was flooding already before the levee was even close.
We watched the posts on Facebook that night, all the other locals sharing their concerns of the size of it. People estimating the same as us – over 13m, levee to break at 3am.
I woke at 5am.
The first thing I saw when I opened my Facebook was posts from friends and family begging for boats because they or their loved ones were trapped.
We knew it was really bad then.
At 6am we got a call from a family member asking if we knew someone with a boat because her parents were stuck with their elderly neighbour in her house in East Lismore.
We called around but didn’t know anyone, so we left our kids with my mum and headed down to Spring Street to see what help we could be.
We expected it to be knee-waist deep and maybe my partner could just help walk or carry them out.
When we got there at 6:30am, the water was already almost halfway up the second storey of their own house, and now reaching the second storey of the house they were staying in up the road.
We have several friends in that street, some who hadn’t been rescued yet. So we stayed there all day.
We helped people in and out of boats, my partner even jumping on a man’s kayak to search for elderly residents who neighbours had concerns for.
I’m a tiny person, so I’m not much help with the physical tasks, so I spent my day providing hugs, towels, getting people to cars and making sure they had somewhere to go.
I’ll never forget hugging an elderly woman after she got out of the boat as she broke down, thanking us, calling us angels and saying she really believed she would die
I spent a large part of my day desperately calling emergency services trying to get through to someone, because my sister inlaws friend and family were trapped in their roof and couldn’t get out and she had lost contact with them.
My heart broke for the police officers on the phone as I knew they couldn’t do anything to help except just pass the message on. I kept pleading with them,
“Please there are children in that roof, they have to be priority”
and all they could say was
“I’m sorry, there are thousands of calls for assistance, we will try to get someone there shortly”.
I have never felt so helpless in my life.
We didn’t hear until that night that thankfully the family had been rescued just in time
We were there until the sun was down, in the rain and flood water. By the time we left the water was almost all the way up the second storeys of those houses.
Cars that we could see parked in that street were now well under water. It looked like an ocean had swallowed our town. The current was so strong and the water was freezing.
We didn’t see a single SES boat go through these streets, as we assumed they were conducting rescues from further in town.
These people were all completely saved by their neighbours and strangers in their own boats, and if it wasn’t for these people stepping in, so so many would have died.
My story isn’t anything like the devastating stories of loss and trauma like most other people. I wasn’t a brave person jumping in a boat and rescuing people, and I wasn’t a person in need of rescuing. But I was there for it, and my heart breaks for our town and it’s people.
Every one of you who has suffered with the loss of their homes, their belongings, their memories, their pets & even loved ones,
I want you to know that I am so sorry, that you are loved, I admire your strength & I am so so glad that you survived
It’s devastating to see our town like this, so much worse than we could have imagined.
But it’s been so inspiring seeing the bravery of the people who rescued hundreds of people, the strength of those who have suffered with tremendous loss but continue to survive, and the energy and commitment that our fellow locals have to rebuild their homes & businesses despite their personal losses & the amount of volunteers who are helping to recover the town every single day.
Keep strong Lismore
Photo attached, taken by me, Spring Street, Monday morning 28/02/2022