Saturday, March 5, 2011

Summer of Sorrow - Queensland

I am sure that the summer of 2010/11 will be forever remembered as Queensland's Summer of Sorrow. It will always be remembered as a story of terrible devastation and horror; a story of fragility and vulnerability stretching human endurance but this is also a story of hope and inspiration.

The story of this past summer season is one unprecedented in our history. Firstly, there was record breaking rains over 8 weeks that caused Queensland to turn into an inland sea the size of Texas flooding one small town after another! Then it was Brisbane's turn when rain sodden earth couldn't handle a storm that dumped over a foot (30 cm) of rain in 2 hours into the Brisbane River catchment causing, quite literally, an inland tsunami, wiping out the town of Grantham. The ensuing flood will be recorded in history so our future generations will know the phenomenon that we experienced. This is so that they may also learn and understand the aftermath of those atrocities; the stories of loss and despair but also the many stories that characterise our strong Queensland spirit. A tough spirit which proves time and again, that when we get knocked down we get right back up again. However, the flooding events have left 35 people dead, and yet thankfully so many hundreds were saved by our heroic State Emergency personnel. We weep for those lives lost and sadly some of them were cut all too short.

And just as thousands of volunteers here in Brisbane, aptly called the MUD ARMY, were clearing away the smelly mud, the waterlogged possessions and taking stock of the damage, a severe (category 5) Katrina-sized tropical cyclone called Yasi bore down on a large part of our northern coast. It totally wrecked 8 communities with it's winds and torrential rains and delivered more misery and sorrow for us to absorb. And still after 2 months, it has left many of us in a state of mind called "disaster fatigue". This is because our Summer-of-Sorrow has a very human face, still characterised by powerful and haunting images. Those images, constantly played through the media, have been very public and confronting. Other images we have of flood waters inundating our friends and neighbours homes are very intimate and were extremely affecting. These are the moments that, while not captured on film, are indelibly etched into our minds.

The Way I See It....the momentous events we experienced have reminded us all of what's important in life. It was an emotional time and as we reflect on our duel tragedies, we will focus on rebuilding and restoring our lovely "garden city" and we will emerge stronger. Also we could not have survived these events of such an unprecedented magnitude without the support and goodwill of many from around the country and around the world. I offer you many thanks for your concerned words and gifts of support.

May those thousands of Queenslanders who have been affected by these tragedies find the strength and patience to travel the difficult road ahead, to heal and emerge stronger. And may those who have lost their lives over this sorrowful summer rest in peace.

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