As I cleaned the basement after being trashed by my cousins nerf forts, bullets lined the floor and blankets draped over chairs, strategically placed. It was then, that I stumbled upon a water stained photo. It was the first parade I went to when I was five, firefighters waved from their window as their lights glared into my eyes. My parents prompting me to stand in front of the firetruck for a picture but I was drawn into the lights. But that distorted photo it brought me back to the hellish morning just five years ago.
Screams echoed throughout the lightless hallways, I had no clue as to what had happened. I scrambled in search of some pants from my dresser, and stumbled out of my room in which I met my sister in the hall. Her brown eyes were filled with tears which ran down her cheek, on her way back to her room. Confused I rushed down the stairs to find my parents in a frantic scramble in the basement. I quickly learned that our basement was under storm.
“What can I do?” my mouth hung open, with my hand tight on the hand rail.
I froze there, as I watched my dad grab towels in hope to halt the water from seeping through the hole where the sump-pump rested. At this point there was three inches of water, but I could already see that the water stained the dark wood paneling which lined the wall. There was an eerie silence that filled the basement.
“Well... what do you want me to do?” She looked at my dad, eyes wide open.
“The sump-pump clearly isn’t working,” I could sense the tension in their voices from across the room.
“Do you want me to call someone from work?” Her eyebrows shot up while her hands flew upwards.
He mumbled, not audible to my mother or I. She decided to called her assistant store manager and he agreed to meet her at the store before it opened. As the three of us made our way towards the stairs to escape the basement, my foot slipped out from under me. I fell on my side into the cold water soaking my black nike shorts. I felt foolish, I quickly stood up in hope no one saw, but that wasn’t the case.
“Austin, are you okay?” she swiftly came over to help me up.
“Let’s go already!” dad exclaimed as he paced at the top of the stairs, cracking his fingers.
He charged through the basement door after he saw me start to get up, swinging his jacket over his arm and headed out the garage door with my mom in toe. The door closed briefly after them. I heard a chain snap through the kitchen wall. Followed by the door opening again with my dad charging through the kitchen.
“We’re going to lose everything, don’t you see?” his eyes filling with tears.
“No, we won’t. You’re being ridiculous,” she grabbed her purse off the kitchen table.
I’ve never seen my dad cry before which left my sister and I with a distant stare. I watched them as they made their way to the front door. I shot up behind them and offered to lock the door and to watch the basement. Watching them pull away I felt helpless, my mind running in circles thinking about what I could do to help the situation in the slightest. It all seemed unreal, what was supposed a normal Tuesday morning getting ready for the dreaded school day turned into anything but. I looked over at my sister, who was now sitting on the couch in utter shock. Neither of us have been in a situation like this before. Her head hung low as she laid in a blanket, tucked in a ball with only her head peeking out.
“I’ve never seen him like this” as tears filled her eyes, spilling over and rolling down her cheeks.
“Me either” shrugging my shoulders, as I sat down next to her.
We sat on the deep gray couch, silence filled the air as we waited for our parents to return. What realistically was twenty minutes, felt like an eternity. As I constantly checking the water levels in the basement once every couple of minutes. However, once we saw the headlight beams protrude into the front windows of the house we knew they were home. I dashed to the front door to open it for them to save an extra second. My father breached through the door with the blue box splattered with white letters on it and head down to the basement. My mom walked in and disappeared in the kitchen, she came back with my backpack and waved at me to follow her out the door. I quickly scrambled and managed to grab a freshly sharpened pencil off of the dining room table.
“Do you want me to drive you to the bus stop?” she asked, I knew the answer she wanted was a yes by her raised eyebrows and keys in hand but I figured it was worth a shot.
“Do I have to go?” barely audible with my head pointed down.
“They didn’t cancel school” she grabbed the door handle and opened the front door for me.
“Fine” waddling out of the house dragging my feet across the wet concrete sidewalk to her Dodge Charger.
We made our way through the lake sized puddles that occupied the driveway into the car and took the dreaded one minute drive to the bus stop. We were waiting at the bus stop for at least six minutes past the scheduled time with no one else in sight, I crossed my fingers in hopes that the bus wasn’t going to come around the corner.
“Maybe they canceled school today” with a upbeat look on my face with an additional smile that cracked my lips.
“Five more minutes and then i’ll drive you to the school” she insisted.
“Really” I rolled my eyes knowing my inevitable fate of going to school.
“Yes, really-” Both of us spotted the bus at the same moment.
My worst fear, the bus actually showed up and I knew this was just the beginning to a very long day. School remained normal besides everyone talking about the mass flooding throughout the town and our school’s roof leaking. Buckets scattered the halls catching the falling water, which many of us couldn’t help but laugh at. But it wasn’t until I got off the bus that I knew things wouldn’t be the same.
I stepped off the bus right into a gurganous puddle that immediately soaked my shoes in water. As I pushed my way through standing water as I ambled home. All day I tried to imagine the potential items we had lost. All of the family photos that tracked my childhood, from the first day of Kindergarten all the way through my first day of eighth grade. Just like that all gone, while we were sleeping upstairs. All of the family vacation photos and Christmas videos we stored down stairs in the basement, all gone. Once I got home I swiftly went to my parents.
“How’s the basement” raising my eyebrows, as I peeked around the basement door.
“We’re just starting to rip up the carpet” as he wiped the sweat from his forehead
“Is the water gone?” as I made my way down the stairs.
“Take a look” he pointed towards the closet that encapsulated the sump-pump.
Upon opening the door, being bombarded with the thick smell of moisture I made my way over to the hole which the old sump-pump resided on the brim, it was dry but the concrete felt cold. As I looked around the cardboard boxes lined up against the wall that were all soaked in water, the contents damaged. But the sun was shining through the spyder web infested window caught my eye. It made the basement feel brighter, a sense of hope.
“It’s not to bad down here” nodding my head, as I reached for the light switch that did nothing.
“Most of it is replaceable” he shrugged, picking up an old newspaper drenched in water.
“What about the pictures?” my eyes wide open, as I walked towards the storage closet.
“We have plenty of more” patting me on the back, stopping me before I could get to the closet door.
“Now let’s get this carpet out of here” handing me a box cutter.
After dragging the damp carpet out to the curb, I looked around and noticed that all around us were boxes, carpet, and random garbage sitting on our neighbors porches. Knowing that everyone around us lost personal belongings really hit me hard. We were not alone, there were countless others in the same situation as us. Thankfully before it was time to go to bed our power was back on, we had a normal family dinner and things seemed back to normal. Well as normal as it could be considering our circumstance. But if one thing stuck with me from that day, it is to live in the moment. Although we enjoyed going through old family photo albums, we still had most of those memories in our head. Instead of recording a passing by parade, I learned to enjoy it in the moment. Some events only happen once and I would never want to miss it because I was trying to pull up the camera on my phone. I mean it’s nice to share it on social media and show it to a friend but you’re looking through a phone screen, missing out on what is really happening. To this day I still believe this is a true statement. Since then we have made plenty of new memories and have taken way too many photos.