People have suffered so much from the recent flooding that I almost hate to mention this.
But I think God performed a miracle for me.
On March 15 — a Friday — I was at work when my boss, Tony Gray, told me about some water going over Broad Street, north of the Platte River Bridge.
He said to go get some photos and come back.
It was a good idea.
Even if things didn’t go quite as planned.
I parked my car in the lot on the north side of the Wooden Windmill restaurant in Inglewood. I walked to the bridge and started taking photos of the water. More water filled ditches as I turned around.
Before long, Dodge County Deputy Randy Beaton was warning me not to try and take Broad Street back to the Fremont Tribune. The street was just too flooded and my little silver car wouldn’t make it.
I texted my boss and told him what was happening.
In the meantime, my daughter-in-law, Rachel, called, because she’d heard the area where I live might be evacuated. Since I wasn’t able to drive home, Rachel wondered if she and Mike should get my dogs. I said, “no.” I didn’t want them to risk their lives for my older dogs.
Rachel seemed worried. And with all the flooding, I wondered if she thought I was going to be washed away in it.
I was in the bathroom at the restaurant when I got a text from my boss. A Nebraska Army National Guard truck was coming for me. I was impressed. I went outside and asked the restaurant owner if he noticed a truck coming.
He said a truck already had come and the driver was looking for a girl, but then drove off.
Did I miss the National Guard, because I was in the bathroom?
My boss was holding down the fort at the Tribune and I was no help — not being stranded.
I mentioned my plight to Randy and he called Dodge County Deputy Craig Harbaugh, who knows Steve Seigo, owner of a 5-ton truck.
Steve and Cameron Ortmeier left their jobs at Americold, where they are maintenance men, to help in the rescue efforts.
The next thing I knew, Steve was helping me up into his huge truck and I was taking photos as we made our way through the muddy sea.
He dropped me off at the courthouse. I tried to tell the deputies outside that I could walk the two or three blocks to the Tribune, but they insisted on giving me a ride.
People at the Tribune clapped when I walked in the door. I flashed a sheepish smile and sat down at my desk. Tony told me to write a column about what I’d just experienced, which seemed like a good idea.
Tony even bought me two beef burritos with tomato sauce from the restaurant across the street.
I wrote the column and called my son, Mike, who took me home.
Mike and I were talking at my house, when I got a phone call. Ron Vlach would take me up in his airplane to get aerial photos.
I’m afraid of heights, but I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. So Mike drove me to the airport.
The airport terminal had more people than I’d ever seen in it as I tried to ask about the gate we were supposed to enter. Former city councilman Steve Landholm hurried out of the building to point where we should go.
Mike and I got to the gate and I punched in a code. The gate slowly opened.
“Are we supposed to go in there?” Mike asked.
Of course, I humorously thought later, it’s the airport, not Area 51 with a bunch of aliens.
Anyway, Mike drove around some hangars until we spotted the plane. I hopped out of Mike’s car and climbed into the aircraft.
Ron, a good pilot, flew over several places — Lake Ventura, Timberwood, North Bend, Hooper, Winslow, Arlington, the National Weather Service at Valley and Valmont.
I took so many photos that the card in my camera was full. So I had to delete photos I’d taken earlier.
Funny thing, I was deleting photos when I suddenly started feeling sick.
The air seemed hot and I could just picture those burritos I’d eaten for lunch.
Ron would dip the wing of the plane down so I could shoot some photos and then bring the wing up again.
Up and down the wing went and in between shots I stared at the airplane’s dials — telling myself that I was not going to get sick in that man’s nice plane.
I don’t think I prayed — although I should have — but I started taking deep breaths through my nose. Meanwhile, another man in the plane, Bill Groh, kept saying “Holy Moly” as we flew over flooded towns.
Ron landed the plane and came into the Tribune to help me identify the photos. He didn’t know I had been fighting sickness, which probably was a good thing.
Rachel took me home that evening. On Saturday, Mike drove me all over the place—to Fremont Middle School, where supplies were being collected; Trinity Lutheran Church, where I talked to evacuees; the Fremont Police Department; the Fremont Fire Station, where the firefighters looked exhausted and a table held a huge amount of food brought in by townspeople.
And to Old U.S. Highway 275 where lots of people were piling sandbags — trying to hold off flood waters that were up to the train tracks and seeping onto the roadway.
The next afternoon, one of my Bible study buddies, Misty Story, drove me to Fremont Nazarene Church, where I photographed volunteers and Clarmar Elementary School, where volunteers were signing up to help.
There, Melissa Diers, executive director of the Fremont Area Community Foundation, learned that I was car-less. She contacted the Dillon dealership, which loaned me a courtesy car. I really appreciate that.
But before I got the car, Misty and I went to Fremont’s airport, where I interviewed people flying out of the city and watched as supplies were flown into town. It was amazing.
Misty took me back to the Tribune, where I put lots of photos into the computer. Sports Editor Brent Wasenius and his wife, Dee, took me home.
All this time, I’d been praying that my car — still parked at the Wooden Windmill — would be OK. I’d seen drone footage taken by Kevin Beck at Thrifty Lube and from what I could tell the restaurant parking lot looked dry, but I couldn’t see my car.
On Tuesday, the waters had receded and fellow Tribune employee Nicole Turner went with me to get my car.
It was perfectly fine.
The north parking lot had stayed dry, even though the area around it had been flooded.
Now, some people might say this was just a coincidence or that the lot was just on higher ground.
But when I see how much flooding we had, I think it was miraculous and I am thankful to God.
I’m sad to hear about people who’ve lost so much in the flooding.
Why did some people escape the flooding and others didn’t? I don’t know.
What I do know is that people have pulled together to help others.
And I think we’ll be hearing never-before-told stories of heroism, tenacity and generosity for years. I want to write those and I hope people contact me about them.
In the meantime, I’m grateful to God for his protection and provision and I believe many other people are as well. I know God can bring good even out of terrible situations. He can give us strength, hope and peace as we seek him.
And he can provide miracles even amid messes.