Heavy rains resulted in raising the river and lake levels throughout northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin on Wednesday, June 20, 2012, and emergency crews rushed in to help.
Guyal Nelson, manager of Riverside Arena in Moose Lake, reported that he made two calls that morning, one to Dave Louzek, coach of the Rebels football team, and Dan Lilya of the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) at Willow River, and asked them to bring help to fill and place sandbags.
Help came quickly. The number of sandbaggers grew and grew, but so did the floodwaters.
The floodwaters reached a crest on Thursday afternoon and started to recede, leaving tremendous damage in its wake.
The sandbagging operation turned into a debris removal operation. Flooded portions of homes and businesses had to be pumped out and gutted before mold started to grow.
By Sunday evening, piles of debris lined the curbs in the affected areas. Possessions that had served families for many years had to be placed out by the curbs, their service time ended by the floodwaters. Amongst the debris were family treasurers.
Within the following week, all of the debris was collected and removed from the flooded areas.
It was then that the stunned victims could start to process what had happened.
After the floodwaters had receded and the crews could relax a bit, thoughts turned to the upcoming Fourth of July celebration, an annual Moose Lake tradition.
Although alternative suggestions were made at a meeting of the Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Fourth of July committee meeting held shortly after the flood, it was decided that the parade would be held as scheduled.
The city crews and the fire department vowed to have the streets swept and the city readied for the annual celebration.
Everyone pitched in, and the parade again brought the crowds out to line the route.
This time, the parade had a different focus. It was about a community in recovery, a community showing that it could pull together to withstand natural disasters, like the devastating flood.
The crew from the CIP was invited to march in the parade, and they wrote a cadence that they sang during their march. The grateful crowds applauded them for their assistance during the flood.
The parade was the first major sign of a community in recovery. It was a time to celebrate: to celebrate a free and independent nation, to celebrate the heroes who stepped in to serve their country, to recognize the fallen who had died in service to their country, to recognize all of the crews and departments that had come together to protect the community during a natural disaster, and to thank everyone, including the many volunteers, who stepped in when there was the greatest need.
Now, as we prepare to celebrate another Independence Day on the Fourth of July, and to watch the annual parade, we have a year of recovery behind us. It may not be over for some, they are still trying to return to normal. But we can all gather together once again to show the strength of a community that will not be beaten.
The new song, “One Common Hope,” captures the devastation and the community pulling together beautifully. The video brings back the memories, and the words show how a community came together.
As Mary Rose Varo said, “We are strong. We are not giving up. We are going to see this through together.”