Beanstalk Foundation

What's right with Colorado is right next door.

After the 2013 Flood

Field Notes
How I helped my friends recover from the 2013 Colorado Floods
Community in action

My sweet, dear friends, Jeremy Barnes and Kelila Rose, were rescued from their car roof while chest-deep flood waters rushed by them on September 11, 2013. (A massive, heartfelt thank you goes out to Coal Creek Canyon Fire Department and everyone involved in rescuing, and helping those affected by this historic flooding.) The Colorado flood waters engulfed their home for many days. As I watched the events unfold on television and online, I was terrified, and I hungered for the opportunity to help Jeremy and Kelila. It wasn’t until September 18th that other friends and I were able to begin their disaster recovery.

Twenty people gathered at their home on North Foothills Highway, just north of Boulder proper. We were a rag tag community of close friends, family and neighbors. With tools in hand we were ready to go. First, we had to secure two temporary bridges to make crossing still very heavy running water possible. Only then were we able to reach the house. Mud and debris piled as high as 8 feet in place surrounded the outside of the house, obscuring and punching through windows. 
After surveying the property, and coming to terms with what the damage really meant, we began to rescue anything from inside that remained untouched by flood waters. Everything below three feet from the floor was covered in a thick layer of mud, sand, sticks and rock. It took hours to bundle together all that was salvageable and march it out. We were so hard at work that there was simply no time or energy to reflect upon the tragedy. We had to move forward together, full of adrenaline and gumption.
Throughout the day we cut and removed carpet, tile, drywall, insulation and tons of heavy earth. We created massive trash piles that came to resemble a mountain range. The trash would leave another day, when the driveway, still washed away, would be restored. At the end of the day, we pulled back the temporary bridges, and I felt briefly vacant, as if we were abandoning their home. I watched as the FEMA search and rescue teams packed up for the night, too. The valley was emptying. High winds kicked up and several trees that were half standing fell with loud crashes. The rushing sound of the swollen river took back over for the night. Finally, we unloaded all of Jeremy and Kelila remaining belongings into two storage sheds. We shared some deep breaths, some kind words, and some poignant silences, and then our little ragtag rescue team disbanded for the night.
We often talk about the importance of standing by our neighbors and coming together as a community, but we rarely see it happen. My experience confirmed for me that we humans are at our cores resilient, and caring, and loving for all. The team I was a part of came together out of compassion, and stuck with the clean-up efforts out of perseverance. So, please continue to support your neighbors, friends, and loved ones--not only in their time of greatest need, but because you have the time, and they have the need. We could all use a friendly hand to help us now and again. I will be happy to lend mine.
I want to thank Beanstalk for affording me the time to leave the office and help my friends. Having the support of my employer to do what I needed to do was priceless.
Here is how to give financial support Jeremy and Kelila:
- Eric Pruett
Photos courtesy of Eric Pruett, and Anna M. Weaver