Molly Fisk: Dress Rehearsal

We had a dress rehearsal in our county this week: many people left their homes in the valley to get out of harm’s way because a dam threatened to break. About a thousand  ended up here: some in motels and people’s houses, but a lot at the fairgrounds. They stayed for three days and then went home again.

By most reports, things went extremely well. The Red Cross, Salvation Army, first responders, churches and restaurants, businesses, private citizens: everyone showed up with food and blankets and coloring books for the kids, coffee for the seniors. It was a last-minute, early-evening panic so there wasn’t time to coordinate. People just heard — via TV, radio, social media, and word of mouth — that help was needed and they arrived. This is how you hope your town will respond in a crisis, but it doesn’t get tested that often and doesn’t always work out.

I call it a dress rehearsal because so far the dam hasn’t busted open. The evacuation order was changed from “mandatory” to “advisory.” But it’s raining again today, first day of a wet week-long forecast, so the emergency is by no means over.

One result of all this was horrendous traffic between the dam and everywhere else. Simultaneously, up in the mountains a few hours away, there have been mudslides on the Interstate, causing weekend ski crowds and weekday commuters to funnel through our narrow roads, as we’re the only detour. The resultant double gridlock and crankiness is not what we’re used to. Between stop-and-go traffic and taking Depends and Monopoly out to the fairgrounds, many of us are getting a taste of what it might be like to live with real refugees, displaced people who can’t go back, who have nowhere to return to.

It wouldn’t be easy. Part of the grace of this week’s event was its temporary nature. But now we know we can do it, and have done it when we were called to. That makes me feel grateful and satisfied.

Because of all the hubbub, I’ve been getting to bed late. As I lie there in the dark, a very old cat asleep on my hip, I keep returning to something I noticed: how fast politics disappeared when there were real people in trouble. Politics is never gone, of course. Issues of funding and blame will swirl around the dam for years, I’m sure. And I live in a very divided county, with acrimony to spare. Yet when we called for Spanish and Laotian translators, they were found. No one demanded proof of religious affiliation before they offered a pillow. Green cards were not required, parents weren’t separated from children. Plates of chicken were passed around with civility and kindness, Tea Party member to Bernie supporter to high school girl in a pink knitted hat.

It was kind of like heaven, I think, if heaven has a cement floor and all-night fluorescent lighting, which I hope it does not. The hungry were fed. The weary could at least try to sleep. There was half and half to go with the coffee. The fearful were given a lot of hugs. And the worried were sung to.


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  • hillsmom March 25, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    Many thanks Molly for letting us know that there is still some hope it this country…very well said/written. Now that the dick-tater in charge (for now) has been very busy slashing budgets, do you think the dam will actually be repaired? We watched on the telly while hoping the folks would be spared disaster. =^..^=
    It’s not Spring here yet, although I did see a Red-winged Blackbird flaunting his brilliant epaulettes to attract a lady. No, Spring will arrive when the last Junco leaves for the north. Cheers…

  • Mickey March 25, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Ditto to/for/with Deb’s words. You are a wonderful, great, marvelous writer, Molly. I’m so rich now having read this moving essay, blog, whatever it’s called. Hugs from (thank you, God) a chilly day in Tucson.

    • Molly Fisk March 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Awwww… What kind words to find on a Saturday morning! Thank you. I’m so glad it’s chilly in Tucson, and I wish you no flash floods in the near future, or even the far future.

  • Deb Lundstrom March 25, 2017 at 9:00 am

    You paint the most beautiful word pictures, I am left feeling like I was at the scene with you. Thank you for your warmth, clarity and humor. I wanted to tell you that “Deadwood” is my favorite in Houston, We Have A Possum. Such a perfect combination – rooster and lollipop!

    • Molly Fisk March 25, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      Thank you so much, Deb! And I’m so glad you like Deadwood. Even though Laura Ingalls Wilder is probably rolling over in her grave… 😉