Colorado flooding hits home for Calvin students

Although it may seem far away and at times easy to forget amidst busy schedules, the recent flooding in Colorado has had a widespread effect.

For students who have family struggling to leave their homes, it is not easily forgotten. Leah Jonker, Catherine Johnson, Ben Rietema and others have had their lives upset by the destruction the flooding has caused.

Jonker stressed that the reason this flood was so devastating was that this is not normal for the area. Her mother was a witness to the rising water level of the creek near their house. Because her house is on a hill, Jonker’s family was stranded until they could be airlifted out.

Valleys near their house turned to lakes and the creek swelled to 30 times its normal size. As a result of the flooding, Jonker’s family is expected to be without a home for the next six months to a year.

“It didn’t just wipeout my hometown — it hindered my family from living,” Jonker said.

Johnson, whose family lives near Boulder, described how her family tried to prevent water from seeping through a window into their basement.

They were able to funnel it out until it became too much; they were forced to tear out carpet, remove wallpaper and move furniture to prevent damage.

She says that her home came through the floods relatively unscathed, but others, such as a friend in the downtown area, were not so lucky.

When describing her friend’s experience, Johnson said, “She said Boulder Creek looked more like a raging river … she said lots of people were just standing outside looking at their city in awe. This never happens in Boulder.”

Rietema says that his own home was “remarkably unharmed,” but his father’s rental properties did not come out untouched. In the rental houses he owns, there was as much as five feet of water in the basement.

He spent most of a day draining the water before the rain resumed and it flooded again. His tenants will not be able to move back in until renovations are finished.

Two recurring themes in these accounts are the desire to be able to help and frustration over how easily these events can be forgotten.

“Hearing about the floods and being in Michigan when I felt my dad could use help was pretty tough,” said Rietema. “I work for my dad over the summers on these properties, and to see them and my hometown inundated with water, well, that was heartwrenching.”

“Some of this damage isn’t going to go away for quite a long time, even though media attention immediately turns to the next disaster,” he continued.

Despite the worry that the flooding has caused, there is still hope. There are accounts of neighbors sharing resources and helping each other in their isolation. Even at Calvin, the students from Colorado said they have noticed a bond forming — each of them understands what the other is going through and they support each other through this time.

Even though the students cannot be home to help their families, there is encouragement and hope among the Calvin community.