Monday, 1 August 2011

When Neighbours become good friends

Don't worry, I'm not about to write a blog about a popular Australian soap. In the past few days I have experienced a range of emotions as I came into contact with people who had literally lost everything in a recent flood that destroyed parts of a North Dakota town called Minot.

It was a privileged to meet and interview three residents that had been directly affected by the recent flood. The house of one man had withstood the rising waters and remained structurally sound and he felt "fortunate" that he was in a position to repair his home. A neighbour just two doors down had not been so lucky and his home was earmarked to be demolished due to the collapsed foundations, On the other side of town I visited homes that were over 100 years old and met one woman who had lost everything. Not surprisingly she was in total shock, just sat on the steps of what little remained, staring at the ever growing pile of rotting debris as her damaged house was torn apart. I heard heart-wrenching stories of dramatic rescues once the waters rose, not least of which was those involving pets, stranded helpless on the roofs of their homes. Happily reunited with their owners it is now they that need rescued.

It's unlikely to come from the insurance companies as I've heard they are not going to pay out. Now there's a surprise. In their opinion this flood was man-made.

And there's the rub.

The Souris River originates in Canada, flows south to Minot then turns north back into Canada to drain into Lake Winnipeg. The flow coming south can be controlled by a series of three dams, but I've been told that poor management of these dams resulted in a larger than usual volume of water accumulating, much it from a late melting snow pack. This volume was released with the knowledge it would flood Minot. The people had very little time to evacuate and save their belongings and when the waters hit more than 10,000 people were displaced. Property and possessions were lost but so too were hopes and dreams. The question remains what is to stop this happening again?

The affected people of Minot have been offered just one third of the financial aid that the displaced New Orleans people were given. The biggest difference could be said that no one died in Minot. I then ask the question, do we live in a world where someone has to die before we do the right thing?

The governments of Canada and America are wasting time, most likely stalling over who is to blame and who is responsible. They'll no doubt open an expensive inquiry that in five years time will present very few answers. Too often I hear the excuse that it's complicated. Well hello, of course it is, but you're forgetting, this is your people and you are both equally responsible. You need to put aside your differences and learn a little compassion. Real people with real lives need your help.

Take a leaf out of the people of Minot's book. Neighbours that just simply knew each other before now have a bond of friendship that wild horses could not pull apart. Any differences that may have existed before have been eliminated and they are pulling together to rebuild physically and emotionally.

As I've cycled across America I've been met with nothing but kindness and generosity. I'd like to think that the governments can extend that to their own people. or are they too busy solving other countries problems?

So forget about your pointless and petty politics across the borders and join hands to do whatever it takes to rebuild lives and prevent this ever happening again.

1 comment:

Myrna Huffman said...

Nice blog Graham. I enjoyed our visit and I wish you the best on your journey. Stay safe!!