Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When The Levee Breaks

So many communities have been impacted by floods these past few years.  The flood recovery of my neighborhood of Westover, near Johnson City, New York (in the Town of Union) continues, along with the recovery of many nearby communities.

Tens of houses in my neighborhood remain vacant and crumbling, but government help may finally be on the way.  HUD has approved the Union disaster recovery plan (only 13 months after the flood) which will include improvements (unspecified) to the "Westover levee", replacement of a maintenance building to the Johnson City water plant (located in our neighborhood).  We still await word on 176 proposed buyouts for houses in my neighborhood and several others.

And, there is the former BAE Industries plant,  the building mere blocks from where I live.  It used to be one of the largest wood framed buildings in the United States.  It was where 1300 people used to work before the flood.  Now its population is 2 - the security guards who look over the vacant building.

Government help?  Well, yes.  I rarely get political in my blogs, but I have to say, based on experiences in the past 13 months, that there is a role for government to play in our lives.

It was sure nice to have potable water after days of boil water orders and voluntary water rationing.  The Town was very prompt in removing stinking flood debris.  The post office continued to deliver mail.  Garbage pickup continued.  The services you don't think about until they are endangered....

We love to think we are in control of our lives, and that we can pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps (to quote a sometimes overused expression).   Believe me when I say we are much less in control of our lives than we think.  All it takes is a summer of record rain, followed by two tropical storms. (Or, for so much of our country, the opposite - record droughts).

Times like that call for more help we can provide for ourselves, or that our neighbors can provide (after all,they are affected, too! ) Yes, the Red Cross was there for us.  The Salvation Army was there, too, along with local charities.  But charity can not carry the entire burden.

Needing help does not mean people are "lazy". It means they are overwhelmed.  There is no shame in reaching out in such a situation.

And then, there is artistic expression.

During the flood, someone posted a video on You Tube of our Southern Tier under water, using Led Zepplin's "When The Levee Breaks" as a soundtrack. I recently tried to find the video and couldn't.  But it is sobering to think that this song was first written in 1927.  The original version details the sufferings of minorities in the Mississippi Delta during and after a great flood in 1927.

Watching that video, those 13 months ago, helped our spirits.

So, what is the good news coming out of what happened 13 months ago?  The good news is that we continue to recover every day, we continue to make progress and we've been given the opportunity to prepare for "next time".

And, I can watch the trees starting to turn fall colors, and be happy I am here to enjoy it.

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