That's the word I kept seeing to describe the flood waters and the back flow that crept into Baton Rouge last weekend, turning my sweet, fun-loving city into a crest of the unknown, and then into a smelly row of debris piles.
Once meteorologists and city officials led us with the term, it became a key word around here:
We've had an unprecedented amount of rainfall...
The parish and surrounding areas are seeing an unprecedented amount of flooding...
This crisis is, aside from hurricanes, completely unprecedented for the state of Louisiana...
Parking at least a mile away, we passed tired, tearstained, sunburned faces pushing children in Target shopping carts and knew we had made the right decision to leave the night before. What we couldn't have imagined was that our home, some forty feet above sea level, could have taken water. After passing boats still rescuing our neighbors and wading through knee- and hip-deep water into our subdivision, we learned that not only was water in our house, it was in it nearly two feet high.
Thankful for the gracious friends who had insisted we come to their house but still fearful of the unknown, we waited two days for the water to recede. Once it did, we faced the devastating truth that our area, once laughed at for no flood insurance due to its high elevation, was now sitting in two to four feet of water.
Half of our neighborhood looked like our house. Much of Baton Rouge is the same. The stench, we fear, will never leave our noses.
The two quiet towns east of us, Denham Springs and Walker, and a lovely town northwest of us, Zachary, are badly damaged. No one we know doesn't have some kind of story about someone losing everything.
For Baton Rouge, that is unprecedented.
But also unprecedented, we noticed immediately, were the calls, texts, Facebook messages, and outreaches to us and our families on our behalf checking on us. People drove by our house, trying to see if we were all right and offering assistance. One of our best friends came right away, and seeing our shell shocked faces, whipped up a team from our church to help clean up the debris the next day. She also insisted on setting up a Go Fund Me account for us, and secured our storage unit.
The same friends who are housing us didn't ask, but prepared meals for us every day and night, and could not if they tried ever make us feel more at home. Their son, our ring bearer just a year and a week before, greets us every time we walk in with an enthusiastic, "Hey Michael! Hey Rebekah! Hey Ringo!"
Probably most unprecedented for me is the way I see our neighborhood coming together. The night before the flooding, when Michael was checking the drainage ditch every 30 minutes, he would mention, "Rick said so-and-so" or "Robbie mentioned this," and I was all, "Um, is that the neighbor?" Today, to quote Nan, I would know our whole street if I saw 'em on th' big road, hon-ey. I think that's how it's supposed to be. But still, it's unprecedented.
We have just been married a year, so many of our registry items were nearly brand new. Those were just things, but we picked them out together to start our life together, and they are ruined, and it was kind of sad to throw them on the heaping pile of soggy trash in front of our once nice and neat neighborhood.
All of this, for us, is certainly unprecedented.
But also unprecedented is the overwhelming compassion we feel for one another. I am more protective of this man I married than I ever dreamed possible. I have butterflies like I did when we said "I love you" and got engaged and got married, only they've grown. Maybe they're more advanced butterflies now? I'm not sure. Unprecedented, certainly.
We are absolutely blown away by our church, and The Church. The sheer love we have seen from our friends, family, church family and people who don't even know us is just, well, overwhelming. As Michael said to me on like Day 2, "You know these people love Jesus, but when you see them doing for you what He would do for you, it's just a completely different chapter of the story."
And he's right. It is. It is an unprecedented love we've been shown.
It has only been eight days since the Louisiana flood seeped into our city, and our home, and our hearts. And while it's going to be quite a journey without flood insurance, we are forever grateful for this unprecedented love we are encountering.
One thing is for sure: the circle will certainly not be broken. We will pay this unprecedented kindness forward.