If not quite normal, it was at least quiet on Riverview Circle in Moorhead today. John Brummer’s stairs to his backyard continue to reappear. Inside the house, John is putting things away and preparing for a trip to Mississippi this weekend. His daughter is heading there for some additional National Guard training.
There was no answer at the Johnson house. If there’s any justice at all, they’re sleeping.
Donna Morse has gone off to work. “Fighting these things takes money,” Adam Stewart says as he works in the garage. Donna’s brother, Mike, is heading back to Colorado by a southern route to avoid the coming blizzard, which nobody seems that concerned about.
The Woodbury Fire Department — my hometown crew — arrived today and has been assigned these houses to monitor. As I talked to them, I learned more about the critical point at which this battle was won.
According to a Moorhead firefighter, it’s the moment that I captured on video. This one:
(Update 4:05 pm Tues 3/31 – I just realized that in this video above, you’ll see a firefighter in blue pointing and deploying other firefighters. He’s the one who told the story to us.)
All of the firefighters were supposed to be going the same way the rest of us were. But as you can see, they refused to leave. “We heard a splash and saw the sandbags going,” the firefighter said to me and the Woodbury crew. A metal rod, used to reinforce the dike, was bent over, triggering the possible calamity. I didn’t realize at the time I was filming the exact spot where the wall was collapsing.
If you were listening to All Things Considered last Friday, you heard it happening, too.
When the breach was plugged about 1:30 a.m., he says he turned to his friend and acknowledged that maybe that wasn’t such a smart thing to do. Maybe. Protocol and common sense says the firefighters shouldn’t have stayed to fight. But they did. Because they did, 1,500 homes were saved.
For me, the most memorable moment, however, happened on Thursday, when the Morses, their family, some neighbors, and friends were trying to reinforce the dike. I was passing sandbags when I dropped a sandbag, ruining the rhythm that a ‘bucket brigade’ requires. A moment later, I stumbled on the stumps of some bushes. “I’m not helping anybody at all, here,” I said. “You’re doing fine,” someone else said.
Later in the day, over at John Brummer’s house, a young teen was straining under the weight of lifting huge sandbags to begin the brigade. He’d just emptied a pickup truck full and now he was working on a pallet. His face contorted with pain with every bag. “Are you OK, kid?” someone said. “I’m good,” the kid said.
The river is still up to the sandbags and still presents a threat, but residents are allowing themselves to relax and in some cases leaving home and going to work.
So this is a good time for me to leave work and go home. I’m bringing an autographed sandbag with me.
(I hope the neighborhood will post updates over the next few days in this spot. I’ll try to keep this last post from scrolling off the page. Meanwhile, to read all of the dispatches from Riverview Circle, go here.)
Update 3:54 p.m. Tue. 3/31/09 – John Brummer has a message in the comments section below. I’m taking a few days off (it turns out I’m not as young as I used to be). When I stopped in to MPR on Monday evening, I did an interview with Tom Crann for All Things Considered. () I’ll be back here in a few days.