Part IV — June 10-11, 2019
With the weekend behind us, both the Hargetts and the Johnsons are feeling safer.
Mr. Johnson, after a very short break from the flood site — due to what I can only imagine was a brief illness brought about by stress — has been back for a few days. He looks strong.
Over at the Hargett’s, their breezeway is noticeably quieter. The pumps are idling, if not off, at times. I sat with them and shared war stories. Bryan shared that his son Bradley is back on track to his new Nashville, Tennessee, job. Meanwhile, neighbors are visiting and having a couple of beers. It is relaxing — something that had become a foreign concept.
If you’ve ever been driving and briefly taken your eyes away from the road only to look up just in time to brake and avoid a crash— that feeling of knowing you avoided something life-changing — that is the feeling in the air here on Hargett Island.
It would be joyful, if not for knowing that just next door it is a different and darker story.
In the aftermath of the 2019 Arkansas River flooding, the “Exploring Arkansas” kayak took me to places I couldn’t get to on foot. The depth of the water in certain places was unbelievable.
Nearer to Cadron Creek, I was virtually eye-level with power lines. At some of the homes I floated to, the water had risen to the top of the windows. In places, I could reach up and touch the gutters of some of the homes.
What do you save?
When I floated up to one home, I realized the window I could see into was a bedroom — what I imagined was a child’s room. It made me think of all the things that these families had to leave behind, the difficult choices that they had to make.
What would my kids have saved? What would have been left … and lost? The rush to escape something like this is always utter chaos.
In the heat of the moment — in addition to losing your home, most Arkansans’ biggest financial investment and asset — you can lose precious memories that go far beyond cash value. All I can think is, if it were my family, would we have remembered to get my Papa’s duck call out of my son’s bedside drawer? What about that Evel Knievel toy motorcycle I handed down to him 19 years ago?
The water is receding, and we are just days away from families being able to come back and take stock of their loss. “They’re just things. The important thing is everyone is safe.” That’s the refrain you hear over and over in situations like this. It’s true, but things are important, too. Some things can’t be replaced and, for those who lost them, a grieving process is coming.
Yes, everyone is safe out here at Treasure Hills, but the weight of what is lost should not be diminished. The phrase, “They’re just things …” tends to minimize the importance of the objects that make us “Us.” Whether it’s your Papa’s duck call, the toy you’ve handed down to your kids or any other talisman that gives physical weight to your family’s stories and memories, that damage is just as much property loss as what the insurance industry calls your valuables. These objects may seem trivial, especially when compared to life. However, these treasured things are not trivial. Their loss hurts, and it leaves a hole.
AETN producer Kevin Thomas Clark – a Blytheville native – will provide ongoing coverage of the historic 2019 Arkansas River flood in the Conway area through blogs and a digital-first video series. Watch for updates in coming weeks on the AETN Engage blog and AETN social media outlets.