At the beginning of this week, I was all set to write a blog post about how we got flooded in at church on Sunday. The creek that runs alongside the road in broke its banks... rose more quickly than we were prepared for and had us stranded for four hours.
But then, on Monday afternoon, the world just started to go crazy, and it seemed too silly and pathetic to talk about.
I was checking facebook on my phone, and someone had posted photos of the Coffee Club in Margaret Street of Toowoomba, with water almost up to the ceiling. We were at a friend's and I quickly jumped online to try and figure out what was happening. We turned on the news. And couldn't believe what we were seeing.
I've been watching with horror for the past few weeks, as towns like Rockhampton, Emerald and Bundaberg were hit by massive floodwaters. And it has felt horrible, and I've felt so sad for people. But seeing those places that were so familiar to me - places I've walked, driven, shopped.. a thousand times.. in such devastation. It just looked like a horror movie. My brain couldn't (and still can't) comprehend what I was saying. Toowoomba is on top of a mountain range... places like that just don't flood!
I trawled the internet, looking at photos, reading stories, trying to make my brain comprehend the enormity of what was happening. I saw photos of the Range, turned into a river, as the wall of water flowed down into the Lockyer Valley. I watched footage of cars being swept through water with such force that trees were flattened. People clinging to lamp posts and trees for dear life. Read accounts of people trying to rescue others from the tops of cars, of people being swept away. Saw the devastation as the water flowed down into the valley below Toowoomba... Grantham, Murphy's Creek, Withcott, Laidly... People who had no chance - no warning. No reason to expect and no way to prepare themselves for the tragedy that was so rapidly and unavoidably about to befall them. I lay in bed that night, tossing and turning. Unable to turn my brain off, or to stop seeing the pictures in my mind. Then I remember that at least I'm in a bed... there are people in that valley who are spending the night on their rooftops, praying that the water doesn't get any higher.
I frantically sent messages to everyone I could think of - to make sure my friends were safe. Felt sick as I heard the numbers of dead and missing people rise... Reel at the incomprehensible loss and damage that these places have suffered.
I watched as Brisbane prepared for the water to reach them... for the greatest natural disaster it has faced. Listened to the news of tens of thousands of homes lost, people displaced, more lives lost. My head aches as my brain tries to grasp that what I am seeing on the television is REAL.. really happening, to real people, in my state. Only hours away from where I am, right now. It's so surreal, seeing the gorgeous Queensland day, as the sun shines in blue skies, and yet the water below is relentless, destroying towns, homes... lives.
Today the stories have started to filter through. Of a young boy, insisting that the rescuers take his little brother first, before he and his mother were swept away by the currents. Of a young mother rescued by a helicopter, telling of how her toddler was ripped from her arms by the water, minutes before her rescue. I want to hold my daughter and never let her go. I see footage in Murphy's Creek, where the water was on top of people before they even knew what was happening. People, families, children running to higher ground, screaming in sheer terror. Grown men break down and cry as they tell of watching houses and cars float by with people screaming for help, and how they could do nothing but stand and pray.
Seventy-five percent of our state has been declared a disaster zone. Over 1 million square kilometres of Queensland has been affected. At least 15 people have lost their lives, with over 70 still unaccounted for. Thousands of homes are lost, entire towns are wiped out.
And I'm sitting here. Safe. Dry. Fed. Clothed. I've shopped, and put fuel in my car. I can turn the TV off when it all gets to much. I feel guilty for being able to get away from it.
We're surviving... that is.. our state is surviving. I know the state will pull through it.. because we have to. The community is amazing to me. People are pulling together, getting the job done. And I know it's going to be big, and slow, and unbelievable. We're going to be counting the cost, in every imaginable way, for a long time after this. A lot of things will never be the same again, for a lot of people. But somehow, we'll find a new kind of normal.
Please, if you haven't already, give. And don't stop praying.