“On July 30, 2016, a storm dropped six inches of rain in two hours on the city. The resulting flash flood caused severe damage in historic Ellicott City, especially along Main Street. Many homes, roads, businesses, sidewalks, and more were destroyed by the flooding, including the city’s landmark clock. A state of emergency was declared as a result of the disaster, and at least two people have been confirmed to be dead.” (Wikipedia, citations omitted).
This. The sight that greets us as we leave our driveway-disguised-as-nonCounty-street every day – a not-so subtle reminder of the devastation that occurred last weekend. The sidewalks have collapsed and it is not safe to drive or walk to Main Street. The news helicopters kept passing overhead, so many and so loud last Sunday that my poor husband got a bad day’s sleep after working overnight at the hotel. The presence of the helicopters is dwindling as last Saturday night’s flood is relegated to old news, no matter how raw the loss remains to the business owners, employees and residents of “Old Ellicott.”
In the past week, the news and the internet have been rife with images like this:
and afterwards, this
After the initial shock and terror – and the loss of two lives – the other consequences of flooding, gas main break, water main break have started. The County had to tear down buildings, their old structures no longer strong enough to withstand the onslaught of time and nature. People are homeless and now sewage is seeping into the Tiber, a branch of the Patapsco River.
Ellicott City, “Merlin” was a mill town, founded in the early 1700s by two Quaker brothers from Pennsylvania with (surprise surprise) the last name of Ellicott. The hills and the water flow were factors in the economic growth of this early American town. Ellicott City also has a rich supply of ghost stories and for years, there have been two “Ghost Tours” every weekend, guided by local ghost experts. John, my brother Dan (who was sojourning with us for an all-too-short stay) treated ourselves to one such tour on a Friday night in June of 2010. Why so many ghosts? The theory is that the overhead electrical wiring, the river running underneath and the abundance of granite in the hills contribute in some strange way. My own theory is that it is a town that has remained very much the same physically while living through the changes of 300-plus years of history. Why knows?
A little over four years ago, April 20, 2012 to be exact, I took a walk from my house to Main Street, the first of many I took that year and since. I had lost a lot of weight and was ready to walk a few miles to test out my newfound freedom from joint stiffness and pain and the effort that pushing 100 pounds too many had always cost me on walks in the past. It was a gloriously beautiful day. The town was dressed up to greet tourists, proud residents and Maryland shoppers who took at least one annual shopping pilgrimage to its quaint streets. This is how I remember Ellicott City and it is to this that I believe we will eventually return.
My daughter-in-law works for the owner of one of the most beautiful galleries I have ever visited. She worked at the gallery on weekends as she finished up her Masters in Fine Arts in Philadelphia, two hours away, during the week. After graduation, she continues to work there as a second job, but her first love. The night of the flood, she had just left work when the heavy rain began. Her boss, accompanied by four others in the shop, did not realize the extent of the flooding until she saw cars starting to float down the street and a rather dramatic rescue of a woman from her car by a “human chain” manned by local business owners and others. She actually pushed her own body against the door to the first floor of the gallery to hold the rising flood waters at bay. When finally she had to let go at the urging of her friends to get the heck upstairs, the water was chest height. She lost a great deal in that flood, but she was luckier than the two who lost their lives after being knocked down and drowned by the flood waters.
Just to give you an idea of the kind of people my daughter-in-law works for (and I say “works” because they plan on reopening and she is helping any way she can), her boss, Robin, after the shop closed on July 17th, threw a party in honor of our Robyn (our daughter-in-law)’s attaining her Masters degree. Robin and her husband’s warmth and kindness was something I will never forget.
One thing has been on my mind all week: Katrina and the people of New Orleans who continue to suffer all manner of untold sorrows. We need to find better ways to deal with flood waters. We certainly have the science and the people who know what needs to be done. We just have to have the will to listen to them and do it.
The United Way of Central Maryland has a fund to help with relief efforts. #ECStrong
God be with you ’til we meet again+