Where to begin?
I'm sitting at a Starbucks, taking advantage of free wi-fi because we have no internet or cable at home.
We have no basement - - like many people here in southeastern Wisconsin, we were "affected" by flooding; eight feet of water found it's way in and drowned my office and its entire contents, not to mention everything we had in storage. So, what you see at left is ten years of my professional and personal life mixed into a slurry - the water line is just below the ceiling. The other half of the basement looked even worse. I'm not alone; dozens of households in Franklin have been upended by the storms, and the entire Midwest is absolutely reeling.
The storm was Saturday night, and it's the following Friday before I can sit still long enough to think. As many are learning, putting the pieces back together after an event like this is an exhausting, all-encompassing experience that leaves little or no time for contemplation or tapping notes into a laptop. In fact, I really have no business being here, away from the myriad things that still need attention at home. This will have to be a short entry with a promise of more later (you'll want to hear about an army of FEMA folks touring my humble abode, for instance).
This is a blog about finding community, and I found it in spades the morning after the flood. You have no idea the amount of stuff a writer with a pop culture jones can accumulate over the course of 10 years in one house; the basement was literally packed with books, memorabilia, publications, product samples, about 100 GI Joes (I wrote a book about Hasbro and their movable man of action, which pretty much put me on the mailing list for every new figure), and it had to be emptied ASAP, a task that looked like it could take the better part of a week. If not for the miniature army of help that showed up at our house the next morning once word had gotten out - people I knew well and people I'd never before met - I would still be hauling buckets of waterlogged books, furniture and files.
And I'm not talking about simply "helping out"; these people were in the water hauling container after container of heavy, waterlogged debris up a narrow stairway, over and over and over again. It was sweaty, dirty, painful, work that went on all day, and I was surrounded by people willing to stay with it until we got it done. And, unbelievably, we did. Six tons worth. I can't imagine being able to adequately pay back their generosity and selflessness.
Mayor Taylor came over, not to pose for pictures or gaze ruefully at the mess, but to lug containers of my office-soup up the stairs. My alderman, Kristen Wilhelm, got elbow deep, working for hours. FranklinNOW blogger Greg Kowalski and his sister pitched in. Alderman Steve Taylor came by - - and I'm not even in his district.
In the days that followed, Alderman and plan commission member Ken Skowronski stopped by to offer his expertise on battening the hatches (and my open basement window) for subsequent rain. Jerry Schaefer, Franklin's superintendent of Public Works (a busy man this week), did the same. With their advice and input I was able to take steps that helped me relax a bit as even more rain came.
In this space I talk a lot about the built environment and how it can promote or negate the sense of neighborliness and community in a suburb like Franklin. I'm seeing now what I'd always suspected - - that this is a city whose citizens and leadership are well worth bragging about and on whom well thought-out development and planning will not be wasted. We can disagree on how we get there, but we unquestionably have the human element in place that guarantees success.
What's lost in the flood is just "stuff." What you find in the aftermath of an event like this is what's really worthwhile.
Thanks is too small a word.