Bette Gardner of Osmond, Nebraska, who runs a daycare out of her home, heard a strange noise in the basement while the children napped.
She found a spout of sewage water shooting out of her toilet, sink and drain, quickly filling the room.
“It was raining a lot,” Osmond said, “School was let out early, and I had a house full of kids. I didn’t realize how bad it was.”
Gardner stepped into her basement intending to grab some clean laundry, but she found rising, dirty water up to her ankles.
“Usually they [the children] are downstairs. Thank God everyone was upstairs,” she said.
By the time her husband was able to make it home, the water in her basement was four foot deep.
The last child at the daycare had to be picked up by the local volunteer fire department in a truck large enough to wade through the floodwaters.
“They [the children] still talk about it everyday,” said Gardner.
Aren Koenig, Community Preparedness Manager for Save the Children, recently spoke at a long-term recovery summit about children’s conversations as part of the processing of what had occurred.
“It’s so important to just listen to that story and to let them share. You’re actually part of their healing process,” Koenig said.
The flooding wasn’t the only hardship Gardner endured this spring.
“My mom was really sick at this time, and she actually passed away three days after the flood,” Gardner said.
The close-knit community in Osmond proved its resilience in those days.
“That Saturday morning after the flood… With my mom being sick and everything, I was gone for a little while,” said Gardner. “I got back just before lunch, and they had already done Calvin’s room, and all these people just showed up. They tore all the drywall out and checked the beams and foundation. The carpet was all out, and they had everything already loaded onto trucks, and off they went to the next house.”
Now months after the flood, Gardner has a new, refinished basement with a covered in toys instead of sewage.
Gardner credits the help she received as a combination of midwestern and small town values.
“Nobody’s sitting there whining and feeling sorry for themselves or causing problems or looting or whatever,” Gardner said. “I didn’t have that here. People were chipping in helping everybody.”