I have to wonder how many pairs of trendy, designer Rosie Roo gum boots made their debut in the Brisbane flood recovery project. I know mine did….pastel paisley to be exact. Until that point I had dabbled in them during a shower of rain at the local dog park, and even ventured forth and wore them to work a couple of days when the rain saw me swimming to the bus stop and work. Never would I have predicted that they would see so much mud or indeed how they would hold up to the pressure of the gurney blasting mud from them at the end of each days hard slog cleaning.
I think that I, like most people I speak to, am still in shock at just what has happened, and the impact it has had on so many people. Not only my home town of Brisbane, but huge tracts of the State of Queensland have been, or still are, under water. It really is indescribable. Now Victoria has joined in and it too is underwater.
Whilst I am thankful that my home and possessions have escaped the deluge I am fully aware that many people are not so lucky. Never again will I complain as I puff up the hill as I trudge home from the bus stop, or struggle up the drive way with my wheelie bin in hand. The loss and devastation is overwhelming. People have lost their entire homes, their possessions, their pets, and in the worst cases, loved ones. What remains are the memories, and I would hope the support, compassion and love of the thousands of people who have given of their time, skill and equipment to help turn this catastrophe around. This is what will be the base that enables people to start rebuilding their lives.
For me personally the full effect of this disaster hit home Friday 14 January. Having been sent home from work on Tuesday 11 January, I had, after three days of watching events unfold on the television, decided that I needed to be out “doing” rather than sitting at home “watching”.
Decision made, I hooked up with two friends (M and C), and we filled the car with everything we thought might possibly be of use and headed off. This included mops, buckets, brooms, garbage bags, disinfectant, gloves etc. The original plan was to help a friend of M’s. Living at Indooroopilly, she was in a high risk zone, After being accosted by a seriously grumpy, but I can only imagine well intentioned, man at the top of the street barking at us that “day trippers were not welcome” we arrived to find no one home. After some neat detective work, that involved an unmarked police car whose occupants also thought we were up to no good – we established that the friend had actually not lived at the property for some months, and the current occupants required no assistance. So, being ever resourceful we crossed the road, introduced ourselves to a young couple there and offered our services. 1 collapsed ceiling Flood water reached the eaves of the roof), 6 hours and 1000 000 gallons of mud later (yes, I exaggerate, but it seemed like a mountain of mud) we left feeling that we had contributed to the relief effort and had shown these ex Tasmanians a little bit of true Brisbane spirit.
The remainder of the week was spent helping friends who live at Graceville. The wonderful river walk we took early on New Year’s Eve now came to us, with water inundating the lower level of their home. Luckier than some, the main living spaces upstairs remained out of reach of the water, however a home based business and various storage and workshop areas were submerged. 4 days later, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. The reality however is that these friends, along with all of those affected will take months to regain their balance in life after an event of such magnitude.
Again, the kindness of strangers was inspiring with people coming to work alongside us from as far away as the Gold Coast. People got down and dirty, and those unable to assist with the heavy work of cleaning and removal of sodden household items and furniture turned their hands to supplying workers with an endless supply of sandwiches, cake, cookies and cold drinks. The RACQ (Royal Automobile Club QLD) earnt brownie points by driving around the neighbourhood delivering ice cold bottles of water and Mars bars.
The sight that really gave me goose bumps however was when we were driving out of the street at the end of a long day of hard work – to see that one of the neighbours had erected a huge banner in a tall gum tree that proudly announced “THANK YOU” in metre high letters. In bright pink letters, it showed that our efforts were appreciated and for me that was more than enough.