Flood response proves there’s no place like home

Home always holds a special place in your heart, as do the people you grew up around and have known for most, and in some cases, all of your life.

For me, home is Estill County in rural Eastern Kentucky. It’s made up of the small towns of Irvine and Ravenna, which sit side by side, divided only by a simple and unrecognizable line where one begins and the other ends. The two communities are tiny in comparison to most, but they are mighty in the pride and love of those who live there.

That pride and love showed greatly this past week after historic flooding hit Estill and other counties in the region. As heavy rains fell, the rural area along the Kentucky River was covered by water making its way into homes and businesses, destroying almost everything in its path. For Estill County, this flood was a record, and the worst in more than 60 years, with water depths reaching more than 40 feet before the flooding reached its crest.

As many people who are my friends and family members lost everything, others came out to help in any way they could.

My wife, son, and I went home Saturday, taking some supplies that had been donated by friends from other counties. It was touching to see people who had never set foot in Estill County make donations to the cause and help people they didn’t even know.

When we got home, we saw people not only placing trash by the curb outside their homes, but also their furniture, kitchen cabinets, carpet, and other items that had been covered in muddy water for days.

In typical fashion for Estill County, there were numerous people who stepped up to help their neighbors. Volunteers spent countless hours wading through mud and water to find anything they could, although many items were beyond salvage.

Not everyone was able to do the physical work, and many of those people organized the distribution of cleaning supplies, along with food and water for those in need.

One local church group even set up a makeshift clothing distribution area in the parking lot of a gas station. People who escaped the flooding with only the clothes on their backs could get what they needed at no cost.

One particularly heartwarming story came from my wife’s cousin, who was also a friend of mine from our school days. Her father passed away a few years ago, and her mother lost many of the personal items that were in her home, including treasured family photos and her late husband’s wedding ring. After family members and volunteers spent hours cleaning up the family home, a small pouch filled with some jewelry, including that wedding ring, was found in the mud that stood deep throughout the house. To have recovered something so special to a family means a lot when they’ve lost almost everything they owned.

This was just one instance of the work that went into the cleanup that has taken place so far, and it will continue for a long time to come. Countless volunteers have stepped up and gone to great lengths because that’s just what you do when your friends need help.

While it hurts to see people you love suffer such a tragedy, it’s good to know there are people who will stop at nothing to help a neighbor in need.

There is, indeed, no place like home.