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From disaster springs humanity

After a flood came streams of neighborly aid.

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"Home" is a term instantly understood, even for mobile Americans who, over a lifetime, change residence many times. No matter how long we live at a particular address, there is still that bit of emotional geography where our heart flies to at the mere mention of "home." In the movies, home usually involves a winding country road, maple trees, a house, a barn.

My heart's home – Washington's Lewis County – looks like the movie version, except it's hillier and the trees are fir.  Plentiful rainfall has always been welcome here, as it sustains a strip-mall-free landscape of stunning natural beauty.  Green of every shade dominates – or it did until last month, in December, when a severe flood turned this area into brown wasteland.

Now, roads are cracked or washed out; bridges, both wood and concrete, are gone; railroad tracks hover over beds no longer there; streams are choked with debris; here and there, hills gave way to mudslides. Into the night I saw people, kids, too, shoveling the thick mud out of their homes. Those done shoveling ripped out carpet and insulation and burned the wreckage in bins in yards where more mud awaited.

To see all the destruction is heartbreaking. "We're in for a long haul," the governor said, referring to recovery efforts.

Yet along with the grim, there is a kind of glow: of human cooperation, people extending a hand (and arms and backs). On top of an outstanding performance by emergency rescue services, the stories of neighbor saving neighbor, neighbor taking in washed-out neighbor, fill the local newspaper in heartening detail. "Nobody waited for help to arrive," a friend who evacuated several friends told me, "you just got going."


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