My flood story (Warning it’s really long lol)
So I bought and renovated a house in north Lismore late last year and had been living in my beautiful new home for only 4mths with my 12yr old twins. (This is my story reflecting after the fact).
Im laying on the floor of a kind strangers spare bedroom with my babies. I’m in shock and I needed to start processing what happened to us.
I feel like I’m in some weird Armageddon movie where the zombies start to walk out of the water, people with eyes that look deeply into your soul connecting on a deep trauma that you know you unfortunately both share.
People keep saying how resilient I am and calm.. well that’s shock..
You are emotionally holding on by your fingernails praying hard AF that the rain would stop, that the water wouldn’t come thru the floor, that it would just be on the floor, that it would stop rising up my legs faster than I’d liked, get the kids on the benchtops, keep them dry,
watch shows on their phones, sing songs,
tell stories of the nice new things I’ll get them for their rooms,
keep reminding them ses promised to come at daylight,
show them how to do S.O.S with a torch as we hear a boat in the distance,
make a joke about stealing the neighbours overturned boat as it floats past the house but how would we steer it with no oars?
Call police as SES hasn’t called after 2 calls in the night, police suggest finding something that floats , or get them on the roof, I tell them my children are frightened and one has autism and refusing to get on the roof, my babies were so brave, they found it fun sloshing thru our loungeroom and funny that our big heavy lounge was floating in our lounge/river..
when the massive fridge creaked and groaned and came crashing down with doors being pushed open by the force of the water that’s when the panic set in,
we go to the deck and thank god my friends tall ladder was inside,
I explain its time we get on the roof or the higher the water goes this ladder may float and not help us get up.
I’m worrying our little belongings we have will get wet, or we have no phones to call people for help, S was first up and then me to help E come up to the roof, once up we can first start to see the devastation we were facing, it’s surreal, it doesn’t touch us emotionally it’s like we are in a bubble, a fun acid trip gone wrong, a nightmare we cant wait wake from, we hear sweet Cleo thru the roof crying to us as shes frightened, we’d put the 2 kitties in the attic praying they’d be ok.
We hear a boat and yell loudly for help, we feel hope, and see someone coming our way, he’s worried about the power lines and asks what’s next to the roof, oh thats my driveway I say or it used to be, as I look down into a sea of brown,
what’s happening, what the actual is going on?
I look over at the house across the road and seriously think they’ve drowned, the neighbours next to him are waving at me from their attic roof but we can’t make out his words,
it’s all a blur and I want to this to be over,
the boat comes close to the house and I’m wondering if we have to jump from a great height but we luckily got in without being too dangerous,
I broke down as soon as my feet hit the floor of the boat and S consoles me, the horror of the last 10hrs starts to unwind and let go of the deep grip of anxiety,
fear and panic my body was in, feeling like I couldn’t breathe a lot of the time and taking moments away from the children to slow down my breathing and get myself together,
I look around thinking where are the houses, what is actually happening here it’s so fkn surreal, it’s a Charlie and the chocolate factory river of f’d up nightmares.
We drive around to my next door neighbour who is sat shivering in a nook on top of his roof, we’ve never met before, only give each other a wave when he’s out having a ciggie,
I make a joke about how this is a great way for us to first meet, as he climbs on board I see that he has been through this nightmare too, this is not just our nightmare.
I reach over and hug this wet stranger tight and cry, he tells me he’s lost his cat who drowned in the water, his whole house is lost and no insurance, and thank god his wife and small son weren’t there.
He is white and distant and says he
‘thought this was it, this was the way he would die, that no one would come for him, that he would end up grasping onto a tree branch’.
This was a common story throughout the day of people thinking they wouldn’t be saved.
The reality sets in of how incredibly lucky we were that this man had a tinny and saved us, his name was Sandro and he lived a street away and was out looking for his dog Diesel. We start looking for other people to rescue, I can’t even find the meaning in that, I’m on a boat in a river having fun on the river right?.. No
We have been saved from imminent death and trying to save others from a similar horror we’ve been thru.
We hear stories of the elderly stuck up on roofs, a man with one leg, people holding onto pets for dear life, this is a virtual real life horror story unfolding.
We get taken to Macauley st where it’s high and I remembered happily Oh my car and caravan are there we can sit in the van and get dry somehow, as I realise we are all completely soaked to our skin in our clothes and starting to shiver. I remember oh there’s a doona in my car .. the kids would end up in a bad way being wet and cold for too long…
We get out of the boat and I gaze into people’s eyes as I walk past them, you can tell the rescuers from the victims, of this unfathomable situation, there was just this energy..
We walk around the corner excitedly expecting to see part of our beloved home intact ready to provide refuge, but then seeing the devastating sight of my car roof and half the caravan submersed in the cold brown waters of this rapidly rising river.
Hopes are dashed so I look around and ask is there someone here in these houses where we can shelter?
It’s early in the morning it’s cold and we are soaked to the bone and in shock. Im surprising myself of how I’m managing, Yes I’ll help you says this kind older man with sunshine in his eyes wearing a rubber ducky yellow raincoat and big bushy grew brows,
I ask him does he have a deck where I can take my kids to shelter. Yes follow me , Im starting to worry about food, clothes, how long will we be here etc.
Basic needs kick in. Shelter first as the rain hasn’t stopped, it feels like mother earth is very angry she’s trying hard to wash away the pain we’ve done to her, and hard.. she is pushing back and we are praying hard to live and that everything will be ok.
I ask nicely if they would have towels, I feel like I’m imposing, they give us a seat and offer tea or coffee, I quickly take in my surroundings, those of you that know me well would be giggling at my inner thoughts about what I had stepped into lol..sweet little cottage inhabited by sweet sparkly eyed man and little lady who I assumed was his wife but later told was just his flatmate haha I’m still not sure if it was tongue in cheek..
The lady collects dolls you know the old kind with the curly locks and the frilly dresses like hundreds of them, I could feel them all staring at me. I ask to use their bathroom and have a chuckle to myself about the placard on the back of this old clunky Queenslander door of a frog talking about farts, I wish I could remember it now, had I been in my right mind I would have Facebooked it haha, then my mind comes screaming back to my horror story my skin tight wet clothes the fact I haven’t slept a wink.
More people arrive with stories to tell, all wet and in shock, an awful feeling starts to set in of
‘every man for himself’ as I cling to our blankets and warm clothes we’ve been given by our kind hosts, mama bear mode kicks in to protect my cubs..
I remember this house had a budgies for sale sign out the front as I’d driven past it before and spoke to our hosts about my father being a budgie breeder for years and a Rabbitohs fan, as their walls were adorned with hats and scarves.
I feel like they’ve been sent to us from my dear old daddy to be angels in this part of our journey.. the flood waters were rising quickly up the street, meant to be one of the highest streets in the area, panic starts to slowly creep in amongst massive sleep deprivation and cold and pure disbelief of the situation.
More refugees start to arrive, I think in the end there were 15 of us.. all with similar stories..
I called the SES again as we needed to get out and fast they were given a serve by me even though I realise now the enormous job they had encountered,
we were still mad,
we all were, every single person I spoke to was.
They looked me up in the system and said Oh we see the 4am call you booked a pickup it wasn’t noted there was any floodwaters entering your property?? WTAF .
I wasn’t going to take my babies out in the rain again and be soaked to the bone and not know how or when wed be rescued.. the horrors were setting in.. the kids got given blankets, the old fashioned orange checked kind that were scratchy on your skin, but we took what we could and tried to rest.
After what seemed like days we finally hear a yell out, the front Boats are here!!
We rushed and collected our belongings and hustled out with the others to head back into the pouring rain to head to the river.,
Which is funnily enough my walking track and a road..
a walk that will never be the same again.
We eye 2 boats and there is our hero that saved us, he feels like family, we move towards him and get in with no idea where our next destination is.
We are told we are going inland to a school in a place we’ve never been. We drive past rooftops with the tin cut out where people have been rescued,
we see cows stop their own little islands in the middle of the water crying for help,
we are dumbfounded, trapped in a nightmare of epic proportions,
it’s like a movie and you are praying for it to end as it’s not a good one..
We arrive to a street with many cars and more rescuers waiting to take their share of refugees, a lady and teen daughter take us, I cry again as I feel blessed another human cares for our wellbeing.
I tell them of our ordeal and feel the kids are in overwhelm from hearing it again so I just ask them about how they are helping, where the live and were they affected by floodwaters?
We arrive to a small church the lady says this place is safer as the school down the road is near a damn that may burst.. f that!
We chose to stay here.
We were greeted by our first person in a yellow coat, a firie, a Santa look alike with a big smile and a cheeky glint in his eye. We gave our details and went in to go through the piles of donated clothes to find some clothes to fit us, a towel and some food.
We get a sense of excitement like woo hoo new clothes, we find some items and head up to a small room to get changed.
I notice thru a back door a beautiful peaceful yard looking onto a hill and an old tractor and rustic fence.. it’s idyllic and quaint .. I turn to the kids and say It’s like we’re on vacation isn’t it..
but we’re kinda trapped in hell.. lucky they get my humour
We get our new threads and head to check out the food.. there’s soup!!
Hot soup woo hoo.. the kids spot cake and find some soft drink, happy days!
We head back to a lounge, one that had wet patches left on them from the last flood survivors..
The normal everyday stuff like eating and op shopping mixes in with the nightmare it’s so surreal such a mind F!
E spots a boy his age sitting quietly on his own obviously a victim, he reeks of trauma, my darling boy asks Mum is he ok he’s all alone..
Im too scattered to even worry I just look over and my heart goes out to him..
Ive only got capacity for my own children , I suddenly feel awful for thinking that.
I turn around to go talk to him and see what looks like his mum by his side.
I look in her eyes and immediately see the same forlorn lost scared but grateful eyes that I must have mirroring back to her. I go over and ask how she is, her eyes well up as do mine.
She tells me how they were on the roof for 7hrs and her son fell in the water as she struggled to keep hold of him on the slanted roof and her husband was in the water treading water with their dogs.
This mother and son get called away by Mr Santa in his yellow raincoat and I say where are you going and the mum says we’ve been billeted out.. I think well that’s what we need.. a home and safety with a shower and a bed.
I go and speak to Santa about the sitch and there is this long bearded cat weazel dude poking his head around the corner.
Santa says This guy will take you and I say Sold! And go to gather up the kids.
We have a saviour and his name is Matt. He explains he lives with his small dog and he has a humble home but we are more than welcome to take refuge there.
The kids think I’m bonkers that were going with a stranger but I know the universe is providing angels for us .. and I was so right.
We get loaded into a fire truck . Yet another surreal experience that would in another dimension feel like a joy ride but the sleep deprivation is kicking in and I just want a hot shower and lie down.
We drive down a hectic dirt road and have conversations about how one of them went to uni in my home town and how they got called to become vollies with the RFS..
I look at the scenery around me and feel like we are in Fiji and say so, our host says Around the corner is Vanuatu.. lol I know we are gonna get along fabulously..
We arrive at a little cottage and pile out of the truck..
I realise Ive left my only shoes that I own on the boat, the thought slowly dawning on me that I’ve lost everything.. so in we go to this very small cottage and we are shown to a room where we’ll spend the next 2 nights huddled together, even bond more as a family as it turns out.
The little gifts, surprises and gold coming from this catastrophe is becoming evident as the hours pass.
Days have passed since this night occurred now so the information in my mind has almost become a past life, something that happened to us that we don’t want to remember again so here’s the short version so I can finish up.
Matt was a true gift, he fed us and sang to us and played the banjo, he and I talked long into the night about all of the things and I class him as part of my family now.
Kids were happy and found it all a bit amusing except the part where they didn’t have internet.
The best part was being away from the chaos and sitting atop a mountain with incredible views and someone to be there holding us tight.
I spoke to Matt about how it felt like a mini vacay, a holiday of sorts and a nice reprieve before I walk back into the nightmare that my mind thankfully had put aside for a while