This past Saturday at 9am, Building 19 in Warwick reopened. You might be wondering why this is culturally significant. Well, the empty and abandoned looking store was one of last remaining reminders of last year's devastating flooding. Since I pass by this giant reminder every day on my way to work, its reopening seemed to signify the end of the aftermath of this natural disaster. Warwick Mall is up and running again, Unos had reopened, Bed Bath and Beyond moved down the road and reopened months ago. Building 19 was the last, as far as I know, to recover.
But was it really the last to recover? What about the people whose homes were destroyed, the people who were displaced for months. Even if their houses are back to normal, they couldn't be. I know that I suffered less than many others out there in regards to the flood. I was living in a basement room of a rented house that was flooded with about a foot of water.
I know that I will never forget getting into bed that night, listening to the pounding rain. And I will never forget how my boyfriend got up out of bed not five minutes later, put his foot on the ground, and began to swear. In the five minutes that passed between me getting into bed and him getting out to go to the bathroom, there was an inch of water on our floor.
Instantly, we went into panic mode. We grabbed our computers, our pets, and anything electrical off the ground. We began running things upstairs and dumping everything into the living room.
When we thought we had gotten everything important off the ground, he started to turn off breakers for the basement and tried to figure out how to stop the relentless water.
But we didn't realize until the next morning what we had forgotten about. What about the thousand dollar DSLR and SLR cameras in their $100 bag that I had carelessly thrown on the floor of my closet the day before, rather than on their usual shelf? What about the memory card inside that contained thousands of moments I had captured? And even the twenty or so pairs of shoes, including the new $100 boots I had gotten for my birthday, only a month before. And the carpet I'd had on the floor since the first time I'd moved away from home.
These are the things we didn't think about, didn't consider important. These are the things that couldn't be fixed along with the basement walls and floors.
This is why I was so glad to hear on Wednesday, four days after I thought everyone had forgotten for good the disaster that is still so fresh in my mind, an advertisement from a Massachusetts agency promoting counseling for flood victims. "Because not everything can be fixed with a fresh coat of paint" they said.
I am extremely glad that this opportunity is still being offered. I know that it took me a while to recover from the shock and trauma of having my home flooded, and mine was only a rented home. My boyfriend and I were able to move back with my parents after the flood and leave the cleanup to our not-so-nice homeowner. Because, we found out afterward, he had let the house flood to get insurance money. There was a drain in our backyard that, had we been told about it, we could have opened to prevent the flooding.
According to the Taunton Daily Gazette's article explaining about the counseling Massachusetts offers,15 to 20 percent of those affected by a disaster typically suffer "some emotional instability and experience it as a disruptive, traumatic event." I am glad that the state is recognizing the ongoing need for this counseling. I vividly remember sitting in my writing 201 class the Monday after the flood happened, listening to my classmates joke and laugh about all the partying they were able to do during the days of cancelled classes. While they were partying, I was dealing with my home owner, real estate agent, Serve-Pro, hot water company, insurance agency, and FEMA. Some people experienced the flooding as awed onlookers, others like myself have been able to move on, but I am sure that there are still some out there who absolutely need the empathy and reassurance that this counseling opportunity offers. And they need our support as well.