When the Souris River began to pour over its banks and into the heart of Minot, N.D. in late June, it captivated the region. I, like many of you, watched from afar as the citizens of the "Magic City" fought to save what was left of their homes and their city. The record-setting water levels were expected, but the devastation the flood would leave behind was something no one could have predicted.
I was sympathetic, though somewhat disconnected.
That changed last Friday when I, along with several of my MidcoSN co-workers, rolled into town to set-up for the USF/Minot State football game.
We had always planned to make this particular event about more than just football, recognizing it as an opportunity to help share the city's story.
After set-up was complete, producer Nate Burdine and I grabbed a camera and headed down toward the Souris Valley. When we arrived at the river, we were surprised by the size, or lack thereof, of the waterway. As it turns out, the Souris is comparable--maybe even smaller--than the Big Sioux River, which cuts through Sioux Falls.
It was tough to imagine that body of water as an out-of-control monster, but a quick glance at the surrounding neighborhood provided all the validation we needed. This scene, I imagined, had to rival that of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
As we wound through the surrounding streets, the impact of what we were seeing began to deepen. Trash and debris littered the streets, which were filled with the unmistakable stench of mold.
The houses, once filled with families, were now broken down and abandoned. Many of them had been stripped to their frames so the owners could begin what was sure to be a long rebuilding process.
Out of all of this, one particular home said it best.
It had been a two-story house, though you'd never know by looking at it in its current condition. There were no walls, only the remnants of a small first floor. The front steps--which were made of cement--now sat several feet away from the house, apparently relocated by the water's awesome power.
Only one piece remained in its original place; the front door. It stood alone, yet somewhat proudly, with an American flag anchored to its side. Five feet away, staked into the yard, was a small, red sign which read, "For Rent."
That was the moment that the Minot flood of 2011 became real to me. Everything I saw helped me arrive at that point, but that particular house is something I will never forget. It could've been mine. It could've been my family.
I can't pretend to understand what the people of Minot are going through. I'm not sure anyone really can without living through it. What I do have is a new-found appreciation for the relief efforts. The work is just beginning and the people of Minot need our help.
Financial contributions can be made to the Minot Area Recovery Fund. No donation is too small. It can all make a difference.