On the first day of the Big Flood, a photographer and I covered southern Longmont like a blanket. We watched Missouri Street turn into the “Missouri river”. We saw washed-out train tracks and rising streams and people dangerously trying to wade a flooded-over Hover Street.
And when it came time to return to the Times-Call newsroom, we saw one other thing. Namely, that getting back home was going to be a lot harder than we thought.
If you were there in 2013, you probably remember. The rising St. Vrain Creek had cut Longmont in two. Within town, there was exactly one north-south connection left – from Ken Pratt to Third – and that was being reserved for emergency vehicles.
And so began the Journey of Exploration.
The photographer knew the area well. He had to. As he drove east, we picked our way between small county roads like a child’s pencil through a maze, trying to find just one clear route that would let us outflank the St. Vrain.
It took about an hour. It might have been the first time that anyone had gone from Hover Street to the downtown by way of Mead. Wings would have been great to have, or maybe sails.
But we made it.
True, it had required much more work, persistence and time than anyone had expected. Much too much.
But at journey’s end, we were just glad to be home.
Eight years later, it sometimes feels like we’re back in the flood.
Once again, we have a people divided by disaster. Some are trying to help. Some are already hit hard. Some are desperate enough to try anything that offers a way out. Most are simply trying to survive until it’s all over … whenever that might be.
And just like that drive home on those rain-swept roads, the journey back is turning out to be a lot longer than we thought.
Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. Pandemics don’t end as quickly and neatly as a Hollywood movie. Or if they do take their cue from Hollywood, it’s from all those interminable sequels where the old threat keeps getting recycled with new abilities and special effects.
We wouldn’t survive as a species if we couldn’t hope. And so we keep crossing our fingers that this time we’ve turned the corner, that this wave will be the last, that things can finally start to subside and normalize again.
And when we turn the corner and find another corner, it’s draining. Frustrating. Even crushing.
But we have to keep driving.
We need to remember the things that got us through the flood – helping neighbors, staying alert, doing what’s needed to stay safe.
It hasn’t been easy. It won’t be easy. Like outmaneuvering a river, it’s taking more time and effort than anyone thought.
But with persistence, with awareness, with careful attention to the road … we can move forward. And we will make it home.
True, home might look different than we expect. Like rivers, “normal” doesn’t stand still. Sometimes it transforms, like the St. Vrain changing its course. Sometimes it needs to transform, like the efforts to widen and deepen the river channel to make a second flood less likely.
But we still have a destination to reach. The way may be long and the vision ahead may be unclear, but we know where we want to be and it isn’t here.
So we keep on. Together. Eyes on the road.
The sign for Mead is out there. And when it comes, we’ll be ready to take the turn.