Waynesville resident Sara Gee shares her story of losing (almost) everything during the August flood.
One year ago today, Waynesville resident Sara Gee woke up around 3 a.m. to her newborn baby girl crying and immediately noticed something was wrong.
Water was surrounding her home on Hull Valley Drive.
“All I saw was the moon glistening against water and was so confused,” she said. “I ran to look out the back door and water was just running over the porch and in our sliding glass door.”
Gee was home alone with her two children. Gee's husband was out of town for work. She was alone and terrified, holding tightly to her 2-week old daughter. She could smell burning outlets from her basement. She knew her family was in danger.
Immediately, she called the fire department for help, who told her officers were making rounds in the neighborhood for help.
“By the time I got off the phone, I heard the downstairs windows break and water gushing in,” Gee said.
Gee then woke up her 7-year-old son and tried to call friends for help, but no one could make it across their street.
“There I was, holding our newborn baby and our son, arms around my waist, looking out our bay window at the people who were trying to help but couldn't,” Gee said.
Gee said that she was told that the water surrounding her home was too dangerous for a rescue.
“The worst thing in the world is knowing there is nothing you can do to save your kids,” she said. “It was horrible. We were told that boats were coming to get us, but the current was too strong when they arrived.”
To escape the impending water, Gee piled up four mattresses in the highest point of the house. There, she and her children waited and listened to the sound of falling rain and water rushing into their home.
Gee then piled up four mattresses in the highest point of the house and held on to her two children as torrential rain continued to pour outside her window while the water rushed inside her home.
After clinging to her two children for hours, the rain finally stopped and the water began to recede, revealing her family's flood-torn home they had just moved into two months prior. It didn't take her long to realize they had lost everything — furniture, toys, appliances, electronics, decorations, photo albums— everything.
“The hardest thing to lose was all of our photos. I don't have anything to show our son from when he was an infant anymore,” Gee said. “I try and stay positive in every situation. Even though it was hard losing the photos; everything else is replaceable...in time.”
Gee said she was thankful for the immediate support from the community while her family was getting back on their feet. She is thankful for the National Guard unit who helped clear the debris from her yard. She is thankful for Richie Shelton who let the family store what was salvageable in a unit at no charge. She is thankful for Good Samaritan of the Ozarks for donating countless items the family needed. She is thankful for Mike from Mike's Game Shack who gave her son a TV. She is thankful for the anonymous donor who covered their utility bill for a month. She is thankful for her mother who took her family in for two months while their house was being repaired. She is thankful for all the friends and family who helped her family soldier on after the storm.
“We ended up becoming really close with some of our neighbors,” she said. “Sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring people close together.”
One year later, Gee still can't sleep when it storms. Although the storm has passed, the aftermath has left an indelible mark on the Gee family.
“I don't know if we will ever have our house back together. Our walls are still bare, almost like I am scared to lose everything again,” she said. “Our downstairs will never hold anything valuable to our hearts again. You just never know what can happen.”
Gee said she and her husband are not worried about the things they lost. Rather, they are thankful to have their children and the supportive community they live in.
“Aug. 6, 2013, is a date our family will never forget,” Gee said. “No matter how much material things we lost. It doesn't even matter to us; it's all replaceable. Our children are not. I think God every day that we survived the 100-year flood because I know some weren't that fortunate."