Australia has copped a brutal hiding this summer with the Eastern states experiencing some of the worst climatic events on record. This period in our history is now known as ‘The Summer Of Sorrow.’ This is my own personal account of the flooding of Brisbane and how it has impacted my life, so I’d like to share with you some of my experiences. This and other written works are general extracts from texts that accompany the photographs in my portfolio. These pictures tell the whole story.
It’s a very sobering and difficult process having to go through all of one’s belongings, selecting what items stay and what items go. The flood was imminent and by Tuesday, January 11, my friends and I knew we had to leave the house. I tried to return early Wednesday morning in the hope that I could still gain access and retrieve a few more things, but by then it was too late; the flood had already done it’s deed and the vast majority of my possessions were lost.
Everything I had experienced in the days leading up to the clean up itself had been extremely stressful and upsetting. The realisation that I had lost my home had finally sunk in and it was only now dawning on me the mammoth task that lay ahead. The mental fog of shock and disbelief had lifted only to reveal the harsh reality of what had happened, and now the back-breaking task of removing everything from the house and clearing away the vile mud was about to begin. I was finally in the present moment, hopefully awake, aware and physically prepared… but being emotionally prepared? hmmm… I seriously doubt it. To help at such a difficult time, many of my friends came to lend much needed moral support and a helping hand, but then I noticed there were others… many others. Within what seemed to be minutes the entire street began to fill with people, and they just kept coming… hundreds of them, and it didn’t take too long to figure out who they were. The volunteers has begun to arrive.
What is now affectionately known as the ‘Mud Army’ was a group of volunteers who’s numbers exceeded well over 50000 people. They came from all walks of life, from all communities and nationalities, all occupations, all religious denominations and all ages. Some had travelled from interstate, others from overseas. They were armed with shovels, buckets, mops and brooms, hoses, gurneys… you name it! Others had utes, trucks and trailers. There were builders, plumbers, electricians and a variety of other trades people. Community groups and individuals alike set up stalls offering free food and drinks, and they continued to do so for the days and weeks that followed. This sea of humanity whose sole purpose was to aid those in need, were here to help with the clean up.
At any given time during the day there were so many people in my house, complete strangers whom I had never met, dozens of them. Every time I looked up there were new faces looking back at me, all asking how they could help… and help they did: selflessly, compassionately, generously. It was a sight to behold and something I never expected to see in my home or my neighbourhood. The place was abuzz with activity and it continued well into the evening.
Over the course of clean-up day (or perhaps ‘clean-out’ day is more accurate), over 90% of my worldly goods were thrown out onto one of the two large, ever-growing ‘piles of junk!’ These items ceased to have any monetary value, but sentimental value is another thing. Some pieces can’t be replaced nor can they be gauged in monetary terms.
I took only a handful of photos on the day itself, but at the very first opportunity I viewed them and had a really close look! It was then that I felt a great sense of sadness and loss, and to be perfectly honest there was some anger too. In those photos I saw items that I’d owned for years, some practical, others sentimental; my 30+ year old portable TV, my 20 year old microwave oven, an old foot stool that was older than I am, books that I had enjoyed, family hand-me-downs, and the list goes on. All these things were beyond repair and therefore ‘destined for the dump!’ There didn’t seem to be any dignity in that. These were things I just didn’t have time to rescue before the flood or salvage after it, and I didn’t even notice them on the day. I’m sure there are many more things I haven’t even begun to miss yet. With the exception of a few pieces of hardwood furniture, everything ‘big’ was gone, and this was a fully furnished house, not to mention the adjoining self-contained granny flat.
I guess my anger stemmed from that fact that I was emotionally attached. No one was to blame for any of this; it was just the circumstances of what had happened, an event which was beyond anyone’s control. Teams of people were going from room to room just carting things out, and that’s exactly what they were there to do… and not just my place but everyone’s place.
With the benefit of hindsight I now understand what the ultimate goal of that day was, and it was simply to empty the house as quickly as possible. The priority was to purge! Cleaning out the mud couldn’t proceed until it was empty, and the mud was now posing a major health risk; it was contaminated. There wasn’t really time to salvage or to be sentimental, and because these folks had no sentimental attachment, they could be emotionally detached thus more objective about the task at hand, something I wasn’t able to be. I tried but looking back now I’m sure I was more hindrance than help.
The Mud Army carried out their mission so beautifully with great precision, speed and diligence, but more than that… unbeknown to them they carried me emotionally. It was humanity at it’s very best and I feel so fortunate to have witnessed it first hand. I felt very proud of the Australian people that day I can assure you, and they were instrumental in restoring some of my faith in humanity. I only wish I knew their names and how to get in contact with them. I owe them a debt of gratitude. They were an absolute Godsend!
My personal account of the Brisbane Floods, 2011 and how it has impacted my life.
Photos taken with Canon IXUS 80 IS and edited with Lightzone. SIMPLICITY is my niche!