Little Pigeon River, on a beautiful winter day not too long ago…
A new day changes everything.
Last night, we went to sleep to the patter-patter of raindrops on the roof. The sky was blanketed with clouds, as heavy and ominous as any storm in a Stephen King novel. The rain kept coming, but we didn’t think anything of it. I mean, when you get down to it, it really wasn’t like any other major rain storm. Only difference for us was, two months ago, we moved to a place 20 feet from the shore of a river.
We got ready for bed. We shared our normal routine. Watching a show on TV, sharing the goings on of our lives. We both vented our stresses. Adam played a song. I played a round of Facebook games. I got in my PJ’s. Neither of us wanted to lie down yet, and it was getting really late. It was 11 p.m. when we finally gave in to sleep. 11:05 the phone rang. The campground caretaker was calling to say the river was rising. We needed to evacuate.
We had about an hour, she said, before the water was at our door. Adam told me to stay inside, and he went out in the cold, in the water, which was up to his calves, and began the process of moving both of cars to higher ground. Then he got the trailer ready to be hitched to the truck. It had only been about half an hour, and he was hip-deep in the icy cold river. The water was here. It was rising much faster than expected. The hitch was completely submersed by the time he could back the truck into it. Adam kept trying until after he couldn’t feel his hands. His legs and feet had been numb for a while.
He came inside and told me I had to grab the dog and make a break for it, get to higher ground. We would keep tabs on each other by cell phones, til they died. He would stay there and recuperate. I would see him at dawn. We quickly stuffed every important ID and bank card, personal document and thumb drive we could think of into my purse, and I slipped it over my head, and then grabbed our little dog and stepped into the icy river. It was still hip high. I waded as fast as I could through the floating pieces of peoples campground belongings. A huge rug. Picnic tables. I used the utility hook up posts as guides to the way out of the park – the length of a football field. It got more shallow the farther I got. After only 10 minutes I was shivering, soaked to my bones and feeling the burning cold in my feet. How did Adam stand in this for an hour? I wondered. I knew why he had stayed behind. He was exhausted from hypothermia and wading. I heard him urging me on til his voice faded into the rain. He’s gonna be OK – I knew it. And then I couldn’t really comprehend much. I was freezing. My brain was shutting down. My subconscious mind took over. Go. Go. Go, as hard as you can. Get to the office of the park.
I felt the river become less of a strain to wade through. The ground was getting higher. And higher. Then I started to think, and thaw, and immediately shiver, teeth chattering. I reviewed all the old survival skills I learned. Don’t take off my shoes and socks until I get rid of the bone chill. Get to the car, get the sleeping bag, blankets. Cover my face so I am breathing warm air. Cover my feet. Let them sweat. Our Chihuahua was shivering. I talked to him, told him it was going to be OK. I got to the office, passed by it to get to the car. My legs felt like tree trunks, but I felt my feet.
I focused on Adam. I swear I felt him. He was cold, shivering,covered in a blanket, waiting for help, but he was OK down there. I had been praying from the moment he had first gone outside. Praying for him to stay safe, for our home to be spared, and then when my body hit the water, for me to not stop til I got to the end. Til I opened the car door. Til I made sure the dog was safe inside. Til I got the blankets out of the trunk. Til I could stop and think.
I didn’t sleep…. All I thought about was Adam in the trailer. The river, rising. The patter-patter of rain on the car roof became the enemy. God,make it stop…make the rain stop….I prayed. The rain didn’t stop for 5 more hours.
When it did, the water receded just two feet. Daylight had made its way to us, but there was no sunshine. I parked the car as close to Adam as I could, and got out and shouted to him. He had contacted me one last time before the cell died and said he was climbing out, come Hell or high water.
Adam climbed out with his guitar thrown over his shoulders, made his way. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes as he came up towards me. Determined to beat the odds, to get to me, to keep going. Go. Go. Go, as hard as you can. Get to Carolyn. And his feet touched the ground. And I knew that whatever else happened, everything was going to be OK.
January 14th I woke up worried about working enough hours to help pay the bills. I wanted to get on Facebook and play Words With Friends, Slingo, SongPop. I was thinking about what to write to increase Adam’s music fan feedback or the outreach of my blog. I wanted the video I made on YouTube to go viral.
January 15th, I woke up thankful to just be alive. Nothing is important to me today,except Adam being OK. He has some frostbite on his toes from where he had been in the water for so long, but other than that is is OK. The clothes can be replaced. The music equipment that can’t be salvaged can be replaced. The last thing I care about today is going on Facebook and reading what someone had for dinner, or keep up with my high score on a game.
This was taken after the water receded when Adam was making his way out. The waters have since risen back up to the door.
Adam and me are living in a motel at the moment. We are snuggled up together, warm, dry, and the dog is curled up between us. The rain is still falling and the river is still up. We hope that we go back to our home once this is over, but if we can’t, we will go to an emergency shelter until we can find out what to do next. Whatever happens, tomorrow will come, and then another tomorrow, and life will go on.
We’ve had some wonderful advice from a friend who has survived a natural disaster before. He actually gave us a guideline to follow. We have to register with FEMA. Our family and some very good friends have offered us emergency assistance. We’re swallowing our pride and taking it. It hurts to accept that its real. But it happened.
Take it from both of us – life is the people you love and who love you – it’s nothing else.