Friday, March 27, 2009

A Real-Life Flood (No Arks Involved)

click pic for larger view--seriously, it's worth it!

I was looking through my blog stats, and found a slow, steady trickle of posts coming from 97KYCK, a country station in North Dakota. Now... I don't actually like country music (sorry), but I love 97KYCK. The picture above was on their homepage when I checked it, and the moment I saw what it was, I got a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. The picture is of the central sandbag-filling location at the Fargodome. These people, if you have not been watching the news out of the US midwest, are fighting for their homes, their city, and maybe their lives. The waters are expected to crest at over 40 feet; the latest prediction is 43 feet, which would break a 112-year old record, and which could easily devastate entire towns. This is truly horrible.

The AP reports
Thousands of shivering, tired residents got out while they could and others prayed that miles of sandbagged levees would hold Friday as the surging Red River threatened to unleash the biggest flood North Dakota's largest city has ever seen. The agonizing decision to stay or go came as the final hours ticked down before an expected crest Saturday evening, when the ice-laden river could climb as high as 43 feet, nearly 3 feet higher than the record set 112 years ago.
I sincerely hope that residents are not relying on prayer as their sole protection. Pray while you sandbag, or pray while you get out of Fargo, or pray while you get to high ground, but please do not just pray! This is one of those times when a bronze-age superstition is not gonna help; gathering with your fellow townspeople and working... may or may not help. I hope it does. I hope the people who wasted their time praying get to tell me "I told you so!".

But... if the levee fails, if the sandbags do not hold, I am going to be checking with 97KYCK to find out where to send money. I urge any and all of you who can, to do the same, if disaster hits. This is not a good time for any of us (cuttlehouse is certainly not unhit by the financial tough times), but we are hell and gone more fortunate than the people working themselves to exhaustion trying to save Fargo and surrounding towns. I hope your efforts have been enough, ND.

And, Fargo, please don't take offense, but I will not pray for you. There is no time to waste in prayer.

(Let's face it, anyone in Fargo who is reading this instead of working is not helping anything at this point. If you are reading this after the flood is over, hey, go nuts.)

Bag by bag, and hand by hand,
The people build a wall of sand;
As father, mother, son and daughter
Fight against the coming water.
The waters rise; the tension mounts,
And every single second counts;
Each pair of hands that’s clasped in prayer
Is one whose effort’s missing there.
There will be loss of life, I fear,
The wall of water coming here
Could tear the wall of sandbags down
And spread destruction through the town.
I hope I’m wrong, with all my heart—
The town has got a decent start,
A sandbag wall ten meters tall—
I hope that it will hold it all.
The water rises, day by day;
I hope the folks who stopped to pray
Instead of putting sand in sacks
With aching arms and straining backs
Will not regret their wasted time—
Will not perceive their prayer a crime
Will not have lives that they have cost
Because of useful time they lost.
A day or two, and we will know—
The wall could be an inch too low,
Or hold the flood and save the lives
Of sons and daughters, husbands, wives,
The wall, if it should hold, will show
Not heaven’s work, but man’s, below;
If prayer could work, we would not need
To fill up bags at breakneck speed.
It’s effort, not vain fantasy
That keeps a city safe, you see;
A million hands clasped tight in prayer
Mean less than just one working pair.


Marathon Swim said...

They are bagging like crazy. At least in one place, there's a central bagging area where volunteers fill sandbags for others to take away and use. Marvellous. Although I still like the new technique, invented by a farmer in China, of filling heavy-duty plastic bags with water and using them to make temporary dykes.

Mona Albano said...

Sorry, that was me. I was temporarily "Marathon Swim" today when I was helping a live-blogging effort by adding widgets to the sidebars and index tags to the posts, for a charity swim in Vancouver.

But I still think it's marvellous how everyone is turning out to help.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I'm reminded of an ancient Peanuts, where Linus was praying that he'd gotten a good grade on the test he just took. Charlie Brown asked him shouldn't he have prayed before the test, and Linus responded "Hoping and praying should never be confused with working and studying."

Eric T. Jones said...

That is a brilliant poem. I really enjoyed how it tied into the well known a thousand hands in prayer bit. As always, I enjoy reading what you write. Thank you. Hopefully it holds. What do they do with all of the sandbags after wards?