by Angela Cardwell
The last Saturday night of June, 2002, heavy thunderstorms hit our home near San Antonio, Texas, with a vengeance. Little did we know those storms were just the beginning. Over the next week, the San Antonio area saw the worst flooding since the 500-year flood of 1998. Our town, 30 miles northwest of the city, accumulated close to 35 inches of rain in a five-day period.
Creeks and streams turned into raging rivers while area lakes poured thousands of gallons through their spillways. Hundreds of homes suffered flood damage; many were total losses.
We live in hill country, and to access our neighborhood you must drive across a low bridge over a slow-flowing creek. At least once a year, however, the bridge is impassable due to the creek rising over it. During this flood, not only did the creek cover the bridge, it completely washed it out.
Because that bridge is the only way into our area by vehicle, local people were stranded on one side or another. My husband, son and I couldn’t reach our home and spent two nights at my parents’ house, several miles away. My sister’s husband was also stranded with us, while she and her two boys were stuck at home.
Then came the offer of a simple footbridge and a walk through a yard.
One local person’s property backed up to a neighborhood on the other side of the creek. They couldn’t access their driveway due to the water. But, they could walk across the creek over a footbridge they had built. They offered their footbridge as a link for all between our homes and the outside world. Thus, Wednesday night my family returned home for the first time in days.
Over the next three days hundreds of strangers used the Brogan’s footbridge. The neighbors immediately behind them allowed us to traipse through their yard, ruining their grass, in order to access our vehicles parked on their street.
At one time the bridge became impassable due to wear and water damage. The Brogans purchased new lumber and repaired the bridge so we could all continue to use it.
The neighbors behind even set up a shoe wash station so we wouldn’t track mud into our cars. They purchased rolls of landscape material and laid it in their yard and the woods behind in order to minimize the mud and slush. As if that weren’t enough, on July Fourth, they cooked hamburgers and hot dogs, offering them to all that passed through their yard.
I don’t know why the actions of these neighbors surprised me so much, but they did. Maybe because I wonder if I would have gone to the same effort for strangers.
This 2002 flood certainly taught me a lesson about how insignificant a little inconvenience is for me, when so many lose so much. But it also taught me to have more faith in the human spirit, and to look for ways to personally exhibit that same spirit.