Before we could breathe in and out five hundred times, the Christmas/new year holiday was well and truly over and it was time to head back to work. This was when we realized that something was just a little bit ‘off’ about the weather. The rain hadn’t taken a breather. The Christmas tunes on the airwaves gave way to more serious news about flooding in the Northern part of Queensland. We watched the news, we felt bad, sent up some silent prayers for those affected, donated our money, went to bed, woke up, and went to work. Life continued as normal.
No one had any idea that the watery thief was making its determined way to us.
We were still recovering from the after effects of the Christmas and new year food and trying to remember our work passwords and job descriptions when Toowoomba was hit. It was a 100% natural disaster, much like the ones we have always seen in the TV happening in Asia, South America, the US, etc, only it was just 2 hours away from us. Flash floods from nowhere swept through tranquil Toowoomba in the middle of the day and took cars, houses, animals and people. We couldn’t believe it. We were still reeling from the shock of what we were seeing when the forecast that the waters were coming to Brisbane was delivered.
Brisbane went into overdrive. Reactions were varied, no one was sure if they were safe or not. From what we saw in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley, it looked like Brisbane could be submerged with its residents clinging to their roofs for dear life. Some of us had no idea how to even get up on our roofs. Everyone was glued to the news. The waters kept drawing close, the rain kept falling and most people were asked to leave work and go home to do what they had to do to stay alive. That was when it dawned on some of us that we were actually in danger. Brisbane was going to get flooded. It might be as bad as 1974. Many of us weren’t even born in 1974!
Almost everyone headed to the shops to stock up on ‘stuff’. Some of us had no idea what to buy in such an emergency, so we bought perishable stuff like roast chicken. Now we know what to buy – batteries, torches, candles, gas, AM battery operated radios, long life milk, canned food, bread, bottled water and car phone chargers.
Our pantries were stocked, so all we could do was wait. wait and wait for the flood. After waiting and watching the news, we started sandbagging our houses, moving stuff to higher grounds and then waiting some more.
Then we saw it. The flood had arrived. It was brown, smelly and thick with mud and stuff. We observed it for a while. It wasn’t the crazy, deadly flash flood we saw in Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley. This one was seeping slowly and steadily into town. It was rising quickly too. Our backyard became a river and we decided to remove ourselves and go to a safer neighborhood. The river was meant to peak around 4am and some were determine to hold a vigil and see what the flood gets up to. Others were not as determined and succumbed to sleep after midnight. Morning came and we could feel the tension and anxiety in the air. What happened overnight?
Well what happened was that some houses had been totaled and were submerged under this smelly thick brown water. Others were only partially submerged but totally damaged as well. Most of us had some share in the visitation of the flood but a few suburbs in Brisbane escaped unscathed. It was like they were in another country.
In about two days or so, the flood decided to exit. But it left some of its belongings. The thief had come to steal, kill and destroy. It stole homes that people had spent their lives building, it stole business built on years of sweat and hard work, it destroyed cars and belongings and killed some people. Queensland was wounded and her sister states rallied around her. Yes, our beautiful things had gone and we were left with the mud and devastation, but we were strong and the One in us would not be overcome by what was happening around us. Brisbane rose up and began to clean up. Strangers became like relatives, crying together, cleaning up together, bringing food, laughter and hope to dark, sad hearts. We would not be beaten down.
The floods have become a defining moment for a lot of Queenslanders. There are the ‘before the flood’ family members and ‘after the flood’ survivors. For some, life will never be the same again because they have lost family members or all their possessions. Yes, there is still a long way to go in the recovery process, but we are determined to get there and our latter days will be better and stronger than our former days.
Here’s to all those who came out to crush the defeat that the flood had intended under their feet, help clean up Queensland and help her get back up on her feet. Your labour of love will never be forgotten!
AUSSIE! AUSSIE!! AUSSIE!!! OI! OI!! OI!!!