Finding a path through the devastation


I-40, the major highway from Memphis to Little Rock, is flooded, along with miles and miles of countryside. Just last week, the state was hit with tornadoes and storms that fed this major bout of flooding we’re seeing now. It’s a horrible devastation that takes days to unfold, do its damage and then, finally, recede.

No matter how many photos I see or stories I hear, I find it hard to imagine it all. I could drive across town with my camera in hand and take photos of the Little Red River spilling over its banks, but I still don’t think I’d get the impact.

EastArkFloodedTrkYesterday, I met a handful of people from Des Arc, a small town that was told all roads would be closed at 7 p.m. A nursing home there evacuated and closed. They don’t expect the home itself to flood, but access will be cut off, possibly for weeks as they wait for the water to recede, then the roads to be repaired.

One older woman cried and cried. Her town, her job, her life was drowning, she said. Her shock and sadness were almost palpable. Another girl wore shorts and work boots. She had been filling sand bags, moved her horses and boated her belongings from her house to the waiting trailer. I got the impression that she was keeping herself moving so that her mind didn’t take over. I got a phone call from a man who was already cut off. All the roads to his house were flooded and closed. One woman said the water in her house was waist deep to her 6’5 husband. She wasn’t able to get everything, but did get most of her important things out of the house. One said that it took four hours to drive 40 miles because of the I-40 traffic detoured onto the 2-lane country road here. Even dirt roads were busy and congested.

One day at a time; that’s what it boils down to. Step by step. It doesn’t matter if it’s your house under water or that you are watching the disaster unfold on TV, stress can go through the roof. I may not be able to imagine the devastation, there are a few things I think can help:

First of all, be safe. Find a safe place to be to rest, to eat, to relax a bit. Try to quiet your mind and give yourself a chance to catch your breath.
Look at your situation and prioritize. Attend to immediate needs like getting yourself and your family something to eat or drink. Focus on right now and help everyone around you to do the same.

Let it out instead of bottling things up inside. Listen to others’ stories. You’ll find your stress level dropping and your connection to others building as you talk and listen.

Tap into the help available like the Red Cross, local law enforcement or the National Guard already there.

There’s major changes ahead for all of us along the great Mississippi as this spring flood plays out. Give yourself the time you need to make sense of it all and what it means to you. I’ll be doing the same.

Find out more at National Center for PTSD.
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