There he was our knight in shining wetsuit.

A humble account of one persons experience of Monday 28th of February 2022 in Mullumbimby. Lost all my white goods, beds, carpets, shoes, painting, winter stuff, so much STUFF!!!

Days and days, and the rain kept coming, flooding front and back gardens till it began seeping into the houses all around us.

No matter how hard we tried to block the flow, it kept coming, finally spitting us out of the house.

With bags packed we ventured out into the flowing water, wading our way up Argyle street in the pouring rain. Lots of people out checking damage, stopping to chat with those passing by in the same position and those in their homes watching while their places were still dry.

And, the rain kept coming.

We made our way down the middle of the street where the water was the shallowest, turning into the main street of Mullumbimby to the balcony of the pub. Relieved to be out of the rain along with young and old, babies, cats, dogs, children running about and solitary people reading books and snoozing under tables on wet wooden floors.

A couple had laid out pastries, pies for all to eat. However there was no where to get comfy.

We stood watching the water gush down the Main Street of Mullumbimby as we dripped, completely soaked through.

Standing dazed, overwhelmed even, curiosity rising, next steps, what would they be?

Nowhere to lay our heads or sit down for that matter. Internal shaking began. Discomfort of being wet through. Yearning to stop, to rest.

Finally grabbing our bags, once again we ventured into the rain thigh deep in gushing water, the three Amigo’s my daughter Lexi, her husband Stevie and me.

The RSL was the destination, Lexi and I had checked it out, yes that was the evacuation centre.

Here there was carpet to lay on, comfy chairs to sit in, and hot food coming from the kitchen. Tea and coffee station for all to help themselves freely.

A beautiful soul from the RSL manning the post helping in any way he could. More and more volunteers arrived who had also been flooded helping all to be as comfortable as they could.

We were 400 there, young families with multiple children, breast feeding mothers, young and old, people in wheel chairs, and others gathered together keeping each other company all equal in this watery life challenge.

Bands of children running about inventing new games for the new circumstance. Pets had been gathered up and brought along too, including blue tongue lizards, chickens, rabbits, cats and dogs.

We found a spot to spread out to dry our wet things, sit down and stop, to pause and collect up the energies that felt frazzled. Water, food, breathing in and breathing out.

Not knowing what would come next, when or where? Just here and now and… breathe in and breathe out.

Close my eyes and feel the sensations coursing through the body. Only here and now. Watching the faces all around, the scene of strangers helping strangers.

A bit of a timeline… I awoke at 8:30 with water gushing in the house we packed bags and left by 10:30, arrived at the RSL by 1-ish. By the afternoon the water had subsided however was due to rise again by 8pm.

I was standing out the front outside watching the water.

Fire trucks dropping people off. A sick and pain filled person being carried in out of the wet by two people. His carer close behind.

Rescuers came with people in their arms, in wet suits dripping from being in the pouring rain all day helping those escape their homes.

Standing there a friendly face smiled, smiling back I was not sure if I knew him or not, then he approached to say hello, pulled his hood off and I recognised him.

“Have you got somewhere to stay?” he asks.
“Yes, there is carpet on the floor and space to lay down.”
“I will check with my wife and be back to get you if she has not promised it to anyone else.”
“We are three, my daughter her husband and me”
“Yes, that will be fine, we have sofa’s and camping mattresses, I’ll be back.”

He took my phone number to call and let me know.

Going back inside I told Lexi and Stevie what had transpired.

A couple hours passed, coming back from the toilet there he was our knight in shining wet suit.

He had walked home to check if his place was available and tried to call, however there was no internet, no mobile service, no ability to use ATM cards. Most challenging that is for sure. And here he was.

“I have organised a truck to help, he will drive us through the deep water and we will walk the rest of the way home.”

Grateful, shaky and nerves frazzled we gathered up our belongings put soaking wet sox and sneakers back on. The water out the front of the RSL had started to rise again, navigating the water with Stevie and Lexi either side of me. We crossed the deepest part and the truck arrived.

I got to sit in the front cabin with the sweet couple who where helping people everywhere. Lexi, Stevie and Endre climbed up on the back of the flat truck … and the rain poured on. I have never experienced anything like this.

SES were on the side of the road waiting to be picked up, they just had one more of their party to arrive with the boat. They all climbed onto the flat top too. Driving super slow the water was quite deep and gushing past us we made our way to our cross road and jumped out, thanking everybody we set out walking the rest of the way.

At 7ish we arrived… Leilani had the fire going…their home was welcoming and arms and hearts open, it was as if we had landed in paradise. Luca offered us water, this sweet family took us in out of the storm and provided us with sanctuary, a place and space to stop, take a breath, relax. She made us pumpkin soup and toast, we sat eating around their big wooden table sharing our stories while being held, out of the rain, safe and sound. Luca gave up his bed for me, a teenager with compassion and generosity like his mum and dad.

They helped us at the house the next days. Packing, cleaning, chucking out. So much love and care. I will never forget the grace filled generosity. People came from every where offering help washing the mud from the front and back, bringing food, water, lifting, carrying… angels everywhere, with smiles and big open hearts chipping in where ever they could. This whole experience has been such a gift in amongst all its many, many, challenges.

It’s been 19 days now since so many of us have been touched by the gushing flood waters of February 28th. I am ever grateful for all the amazing beings that have stepped up to help, give comfort and support. Thank you to you all!

How did people in your community respond?

They where Angels in human form!

What is your situation like now?

I am renting a room in Ocean Shores. I have some things that did not get soiled and am luckier than a lot of people who lost everything. And of course searching high and low for storage for what was not flooded. Also am without a car which is a challenge in itself.

What are your feelings about what happened?

It has been a huge learning curve for me.

What is the memory you think you will hold with you in 10 years?

My memory is of the open arms and hearts that came to the rescue with a big… “Yes, let’s” attitudes and got so much done for us.

Is there anything else you think is important you would like to add?

For me it has been a huge lesson in letting go and letting flow. My heart is full, even though from time to time there is a tightening about where to put what I have left and, how I will get a car again. Blessed that I have the capacity to see with gratitude rather than feeling like a victim.

Janine Gilmour

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