…but it was also the best of times. The Great Flood of Queensland 2011.
How can anyone possibly say that anything to do with the flooding of Queensland during last summer can be described as being the best of times? There was so much tragedy. So much death. So much destruction. So many sad stories.
Yet there was also stories of inspiration. Tales of heroism. Examples of courage and resilience and bravery. But most of all there was the famous Queensland spirit which was on show for all the world to see, and see it they did.
The news was dominated by the flooding of regional Queensland in towns such as Emerald, Dalby and Gympie. Unfortunately over the years, the flooding of regional Queensland towns was not a new experience. Weeks of solid rain and a torrential downpour unleashed a flash flood in the elevated town of Toowoomba which ultimately cost 21 people their lives when it went down stream and destroyed the small town of Grantham and others along the way. The images of this flash flood, caught on the screens of amateur photographers were beamed around the world. For all the wrong reasons, Queensland was the top news story on the planet.
Who can forget the story and heroism of 13 year old Jordan Rice? Caught in the flash flood with his mother and brother, this young boy, not able to swim, demanded his 10 year old brother be rescued first from the rapidly rising water surge coursing through the centre of Toowoomba. A few seconds later, he and his mother were both dead after the car they were trapped in was inundated and flipped in the raging waters. His brother was saved and will grow old knowing his brother gave his life for him.
Jordan became the human face of this tragedy caused by Mother Nature’s fury.
The night before the Grantham tragedy and with the rain continuing to fall, a call went out across the media and social networks for volunteers to help make sandbags at Brisbane City Council sites across the city. People pulled on their gum boots and headed out in the pouring rain to assist. Twitter was alive and active and there were people tweeting and retweeting vital information. The community was in full swing and answering the call.
I was transfixed in front of the TV throughout this disaster which went on for days. All of the networks had 24 hour coverage of the unfolding tragedy. It was must watch TV. Seeing how Queenslanders were reacting to the crisis made it even more the best of times. The Wally Lewis statue at Suncorp Stadium now equipped with floaties, goggles and a snorkle. People playing cricket on Coronation Drive, one of Brisbane’s busiest roads, in the middle of the day. Yes the Queensland humour and spirit was on show and it was badly needed. Australian’s have a great way of laughing at ourselves and not taking life too seriously and it was light entertainment in a dark time.
I was inspired and proud of our rescue services. They risked their own lives to save strangers. Time and time again rescue helicopters flew over the fast moving waters in the Lockyer Valley, plucking stranded residents from the roofs of homes and cars. Swift water rescue teams from the police, fire brigade and SES saved countless lives from raging torrents. Their actions and selflessness and bravery and humility made me very proud of them.
As Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh delivered a speech capable of bringing a tear to a glass eye it brought us closer as a community. No matter what your political persuasion was, it was hard not to be moved by her speech.
“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are. We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.” Anna Bligh.
After the water receded came the best part of all. The mud army mobilised. Volunteers from around the state kicked into action. Armed with shovels, mops, buckets and a cheery attitude, they got to work and drove into the carnage and began to clean up the mess and sludge and rubbish.
It made me proud to be a Queenslander.
It made us all proud to be a Queenslander. I suspect that even non Queenslanders, watching from a far wished they were Queenslanders.
Then TC Yasi came to town. Well not Brisbane town, but our cousins up in North Queensland. Tropical Cyclone Yasi was a mean bitch. A category 5 system with winds able to inflict major damage and cause damage she did.
The media that had set up camp in Brisbane for the floods had packed up and headed north to cover the imminent disaster there. Some brave journalists locked down with locals in community halls as the giant storm powered over head. They were the first on the scene as a new day dawned, broadcasting images of widespread damage to homes and buildings and crops.
And here we are 12 months later. The clean up continues. Homes are still being rebuilt. We remember those who died and pause and reflect on the sad and tragic loss of life. For those taken before their time.
I hope that people drew inspiration from the Great Flood of 2011. I hope that when times get tough, that they look back at this time and see the courage of many. They recall the heroism of people young and old, friends and strangers. That they remember that Queenslanders never give up and no matter the odds, no matter the trials and tribulations before them, that there is a spirit within this state and of course this great country of Australia, which is unbreakable, even in the face of adversity and struggle.
I hope, that like me, others are also remembering how Queensland united 12 months ago. I hope they also remember that in the midst of disaster, that the worst of times was also the best of times, when that famous Queensland spirit was on display and it is that spirit which is still with us today.
For my post about the Floods as it happened last year, click here.