Just recently, my poor town was hammered by a rain bomb that flooded the city out and drowned it for the first time in its’ 140-odd years of history. It is used to getting flooded but not like this. It rose over the levee 15-16m high, fast-flowing water, caught us all unaware.
Now for my story. I’m a member of a volunteer organization, an emergency service that specializes in storm and water, land searches, and flood rescues. I am a Flood Operator (just a fancy name for being a rescuer). My job is to seek, locate, and perform rescues, mostly risking our lives to save others. I’ve done many. My mate, Simon, and I were on the Archangel, a large Zodiac, and were going down the flooded streets, street lights were out, but our beam was bright enough to navigate through floating debris. We called out, but no one answered, which is a worrying sign. Then Simon swung the beam around to one of the houses, searching it.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked.
‘Thought I saw someone…there, look,’ in the beam was a man standing waving at us, pointing at the roof. We navigated over to the house and climbed onto the roof, but the man was nowhere to be seen, again a worrying sign. Below us, we heard someone crying and hammering. We tore the roofing off and found a little old 89-year-old woman, water up to her chin, standing on a chair. We got her out and into the boat. I looked around and asked her about the man. She looked at me bemusedly.
Simon told her that we saw a man wearing a plaid shirt which looked outdated, and pants but no raincoat. She frowned, then smiled sadly.
‘That’ll be my Andrew.’
‘Is he around?’ I asked, ready to get out.
‘Oh no,’ she shook her head, ‘Andrew’s dead. He died in the ’74 flood. He was my disabled son. I drowned while trying to get off the roof. Looks like he is looking after his mum, eh?’
Simon and I looked at each other but said nothing. We brought her back but told our commander the story. She looked at us and said, ‘Least the old woman is safe.’
That night we went back out and saved a further twenty lives, but the man on the roof will always stay in my memory.