The devastating news of the recent tornado that hit Oklahoma began flooding the Australian news earlier this week. The after effects of the natural disaster have many people reported dead or injured, and hundreds of houses destroyed. But, with great tragedy often comes great beauty in the stories about the kindness of people towards those in great need. The news of this recent natural disaster has brought back memories from the 2011 floods in Queensland, and more specifically the stories of West End.

In January of 2011, much like a lot of people in Queensland, my family and I were listening to reports of flooding on the radio. We were listening to the radio because the electricity to our house had cut out the day before, due to storm damage. The rain had eased, but the water from the Brisbane River was beginning to rise. We began to worry about some of the friends we knew who had houses close to Orleigh Park and the Brisbane River. We were particularly concerned about the house of our friends who were away in New Zealand at the time. None of the family was picking up their mobiles and we couldn’t get hold of the young girls who were house-sitting.

We decided to go to the house and search for the spare key; when we got there the water was already rising in the lower section of their street and steadily coming closer to the house –we knew we had to act fast if we wanted to save any of there possessions. My sister located the key and we called friends from the area to come and lend a hand.

In the end we had about five other families helping us load up our cars with everything in the house. Luckily we found the keys to the family car and drove it to higher ground, loaded up with pots and pans, clothing, and photo albums. The water was at our ankles when we started and by the time we had finished most of us were knee deep in the murky brown river water. The next day my dad and sister returned to kayak through the flooded rooms of the house. Walking past houses in the area and close to the river was surreal. Most people were off work for the week, so there was a constant flow of people wandering around inspecting the damage and shaking their heads in disbelief. Like many other families, we were living out of an Esky and dining by candlelight each night.

A day or two after the flood waters had receded we received a panicked call from the family. They had been out of phone reception and had only just heard the news of the flooding. We assured them that all of their precious items had been saved. With the ebbing of the river water came the mammoth clean up. My family along with many other families came together again to scrub walls, clean plants, and throw out debris. Although the whole experience was one of great tragedy for a lot of people, the floods gave people a chance to talk to neighbours they had never met and catch up with friends in the neighbourhood. We pitched in and scrubbed walls together while we swapped interesting flood stories that we’d heard on the grapevine. I was able to catch up with people I hadn’t seen for years and lend a hand to those I’d never met.

The clean up from the 2011 Brisbane floods was a slow process and we still aren’t completely healed from the experience. I imagine that the long clean up in Oklahoma will be upsetting for those involved. I only hope that this tragedy will bring people together and the stories of resilience, survival, and community spirit will help to brighten the lives of those affected. The 2011 floods certainly restored my faith in the kindness of a community when people are in need.