Monday, September 16, 2013

Many Thanks - a Love Letter to Adults with my 7th Grade Daughter Stranded in CO Floods

When she falls, my youngest daughter inevitably breaks a bone. When asthma hits, we are in the hospital for 5 days. Trust me, I can go on, she is that kid. So last week when I was driving to work on a rain soaked morning and heard the first flooding reports from Estes Park, CO my blood ran cold and I knew without a doubt my daughter would be stranded in the mountains away from us.

 We are directly down the canyon from Estes and there is one way up and one way down, Highway 34. My daughter was at the very top of the canyon with 140 kids and adults for the annual 7th Grade trip to Covenant Heights. It is an Outdoor Education experience that is a cornerstone of middle school in Loveland. And of COURSE the night before my Windows phone had completely stopped working and I was without a cell phone.

My husband (and dozens of other parents) called the school and were told that the kids were doing great and that the worst case scenario would be that the kids would stay an extra day until the roads dried out. That seemed logical and about the best we could expect at that time. In the best circumstances, the communication and reception that high is not the best so you just send the kids and trust you will see them in one piece in a few days.

Right before lunch schools in Loveland were cancelled because the City communicated that the flooding was such that the dam was to be opened and it was time for everyone to be home safe. ASAP. STAT. Working to get hundreds of kids home safely while trying not to think about your own child very not safe in the middle of flooding is a challenge I hope to not repeat.

After schools and streets were emptied all we could do was wait and watch the destruction that came across the news screens. At first the communication from the school district was spotty and frustrating. Hearing that our kids were due home at the normal time did not match the washed out roads and flooded canyon we saw.

As the "drop time" for the kids came and went on Friday with no kids, the district went on overdrive communicating with parents. Online posts were updated with regularity and our phones rang frequently with news.

Saturday brought our kids home and with them the news and realities we had all tried to not think about while they were stuck in the canyon. It turns out our kids did not know about the danger they were in and really did have the time of their lives. That's something you hope is happening but it is wonderful to find that they really were kept safe from harm and worry.

This picture from my daughter's phone shows one of the roads that was washed out by their camp. The kids crossed this road by foot while the adults ferried luggage and equipment over the break to the waiting bus. My daughter told me the only reason the kids were concerned was because the "order" to pack up came so quickly they really had no idea what was happening.

When the kids arrived home my daughter was wearing a chaperone's shoes because hers were "too wet" and this mom made sure my daughter had dry feet. So that leaves me thinking about the mom's feet. I KNOW they were wet and I can not imagine she had too many pairs of shoes with her.

As my daughter was settled at home and started watching the horrifying coverage of this disaster we could see the fear and realization set in. She told us flat out she had no idea they were in danger nor that their families down the canyon were in the path of this flood.

THAT is why I will always be thankful to each and every adult who accompanied this group to Covenant Heights. Those kids were there from Wednesday to Saturday and it became clear Wednesday (to the adults) that this was an atypical, dangerous situation. Yet until the last few hours of their trip these kids were having the time of their lives.

AND these kids arrived home safe without an ounce of harm. That took so many extra coordinators at levels I don't even have a clue about. I know it came at a cost and that their worry about their family, home, and trip home was pushed to the back while my child was kept safe. I expected a loooootttttt of tears when the kids arrived on their Charter Buses but surprisingly, kids were off that bus, into the gym for luggage and out the door with very little noise. I think most families were just too relieved to think about anything other than getting their kids home.