Wednesday 20th May there was torrential rain in Brisbane and at 12.15pm I just missed call from My Kids Private School and despite continuously calling back, I was getting no answer, the receptionist eventually called me back at 12.21pm and asked that I pick up my children because The Principled was concerned about the creeks rising and the whole school could get cut off. The Principle had not made the decision to evacuate the school but could I please hurry. I informed the receptionist that it takes me about 50 minutes to travel from work to school and I would do my best to get there as quick as possible.
I quickly grab my bag and headed off to the train station and was lucky to catch a train straight away, ran to my car and drove towards the school, however was turned around at one point due to flooding. It was at this point I went from being a concerned parent to worrying about my own safety and that of my children.
The Principle rang me at 1.05pm from her mobile and quickly stated that she was evacuating The Private School by moving the children across the first creek and by foot to the neighbours house and wasn’t sure if they could cross the second creek and hung up on me.
I arrive at intersection of road that leads directly to The Private School and pulled over to the side of the main road because my mobile phone was ringing, it was the kids swimming school ringing to cancel their swim class.
I had pulled the car over on the side of the road to take the call from the Swim School and now I frantically start driving up and down Main Road at the intersection trying to see where the children might be and tried ringing The Principle’s mobile phone over and over again, there was no answer and I had no contact with The Principle for a further 40 minutes.
The traffic on Main Road had stopped due to flooding and I was starting to become quiet frantic, so I rang the school, there was no answer. I thought that they must have been caught between the two creeks and I assessed that my car could make it across the first creek, so I drove through it. The second creek was not even flooded, so wasn’t even an issue. I managed to drive all the way up into the school grounds and saw that the school had been abandoned. There was no notice in the school office, no message on the school answering machine and also noticed that the there was no threat of The Private School being flooded.
I could not see the children, teachers, staff or parents in the school building, school grounds or in within the immediate area, across the field, or at the neighbours so I got back in my car and started driving back towards the Main Road, only to get caught by a flash flood at the first creek, just a couple of meters shy of safety.
Due to being stuck in my car with water coming in through the doors I rang 000 (911) and was told that a police car had been dispatched from Kenmore and could not reach me due to the flood waters. The Principle finally returned my calls at this stage and I informed her of my situation and to my horror she insisted on bring my children to me. Lucky for me a passing motorist stopping and helped pull me from my car and I was reunited with my freezing and soaking wet children. I am forever grateful to God and my hero that my children didn’t see me being rescued, they had enough trauma from that day to deal with.
While I was sitting in my car with the water pouring in I started to stuff a bag with Tupperware orders that I was suppose to deliver after that afternoon. When the man who recued me pried open my car door and the water was rushing into my car the last thing I grabbed was my Tupperware Coffee Mug because they didn’t make it anymore. My rescuer looked at me like I was mad and said “grab your keys”.
I yelled back at him, “you can replace keys but not this coffee mug”.
As a true hero, he pushed through the water to grab the keys out of my car for me. What was I thinking? Seriously, how was I going to get into my house? Still I was happy that I had my coffee mug and keys.
At the point of being reunited with my children I remember being told over and over again that I could not get home because the roads were blocked and being asked what did I want to do? On a busy Main Road there were people walking around trying to across flooded creeks, SUV driving past with people sitting in the back. I called the 000 operator to tell them that I had been rescued and she was relieved because a Fire Truck had just been swept away in flood waters and they were not sure how they could get to me.
I was standing in the freezing rain traumatised, with two freezing, traumatized children and The Principle was telling me that I could not go home and needed to make a decision in the pouring, freezing rain about what to do next because everyone else was leaving.
The Principle and The Secretary of The Private School where walking in the rain up a hill for a kilometre and were going to try and hitch hike across a flooded river to the other side where The Secretary’s husband was waiting and might be able to drive them home.
What decision was I going to make for myself and two freezing cold, traumatized children? Was I going to risk getting stuck by a creek for a couple of hours? We had no food or water? Our car was gone. There was no guarantee that we could get home.
Lucky for us a Casual Teacher’s Aid had just driven past a couple of times trying to find a way home and saw us standing on the side of the road and stopped to offer us a lift to her daughters house and gave the kids a warm bath and dried their clothes. She also had warm food, the children could watch TV and I could make the phone calls I needed to start sorting out my car and informing family of what had happened.
Casual Teacher’s Aid then dropped us to the Shopping Centre where we waited 2 hours, during which time I brought socks and shoes for the three of us, dinner and countless warm drinks. We watched the news with other stranded locals and had strangers offer us accommodation for the night. One of my friends spent 4 hours in traffic, driving a distance that should have only taken 15 minutes to pick us up and we eventually got home at 7.30pm.
On our way home we drove up to my car and saw that the water had subsided and it was now in the drain, however the water had dropped considerably and you could easily drive on dry road up to the school and I couldn’t help but wonder if only The Principle had waited and not panicked.
Both the children and I had nightmares and the children called out in their sleep about walking in torrential rain and having been forced to walk in the rain until they shivered with cold.
For all that happened on that day, many tears that I cried and still cry are for the 40 minutes where I didn’t know the fate of my children.
I have many unanswered questions from that day:
Why is it that every school in the district kept their children at school that could not safely be taken home. Some Principles even slept over night at their schools and yet the my kids Private School walked small children over a hill, through paddocks, over barb wire fences onto private property and down a busy road in torrential rain?
Why was The Principle talking on the phone to people that didn’t have children that were standing out in the freezing, torrential rain?
Why was I not properly informed of where my children were being taken?
Why do insurance companies not cover “Acts of God”?
Why does the Brisbane City Council not have depth indicators in the causeway that I had to cross?
Why don’t cars float like little boats?
Mostly I am thankful that we survived and all that we lost that day was a car, CDs, kid’s car seats, good pair of Doc Martin shoes, kids swimming towels, etc
No Tupperware was harmed in the making of this memory, all orders were eventually delivered and yes I still use my Tupperware coffee mug.