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Surrounded by water, rescued by helicopter

By Florence and Robert Higgins

It all began with the disturbing call to Rockport at 1 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 18.

"Robert, where did you move your tractors and equipment during the flood of ’73?"

Unable to reach us earlier because of overloaded phone circuits, this call first alerted us to flood dangers back home in Sutherland Springs.

Throwing belongings into our car, we drove through driving rain to arrive in Sutherland Springs the "back way" from Stockdale about 5 a.m., unmindful of earlier evacuations.

Recalling the depth and directions of the water during the flood of ’73, we quickly began stacking drawers, pitching valuables into the attic, duct taping outside doors and windows, and strapping down objects outside. But, wait! (We thought) After having two homes damaged in the flood of ’73, we had built this new home 2 1/2 feet higher than the water-level mark of that flood. We won’t be getting water inside this house! Were we ever mistaken! By sunup on Sunday morning the water was beginning to surround our house and electricity was cut off. Deciding we better leave now, we threw a few necessities into our car and tried to drive to the highway. But when we began floating on the county road, we realized there was deep water ahead and turned around, literally floating back to our house. We jammed the car onto the front porch, strapping it to the pillars. (Inevitably, this kept the car from floating away later but not being inundated with water.) We then went back into the house, watching as the creek totally isolated us as if we were on an island.

Using patio tables and fences as benchmarks for the rising water level and seeing dirty creek water creeping inside through the walls, we finally admitted to ourselves — we will be flooded out! In no time we were wading through ankle-deep water inside the house, still trying to rescue precious memories like photos and keepsakes. There was nowhere to go — until two sheriff’s deputies and Sutherland Springs firemen came to our front door in a 16-foot boat! Leaving our home, filling with water, and seeing the creek in every direction outside was heart- rending. It was like putting life on hold — just wait a while and all will be back to normal, we thought. As we sped across the water in places where we usually drove cars, we started down the water-filled highway, preparing to cross the Cibolo Creek in the boat. However, we lost control and began being swept sideways in the boat through the rushing water. We finally came to rest atop a wooden fence post in our neighbor’s field. Perched on this fence post, in the midst of swirling water, were five adults and a dog (which had been rescued from a tree earlier) in this small boat. Cold, dripping wet, shivering, we huddled in the boat, being buffeted on all sides by the raging creek. We could see dry land and safety only a fourth of a mile away, but there was no way to get there. Finally, after two hours of radioing for help and unsuccessful boat-rescue attempts, the helicopter was a welcome sight. We were hoisted onto the open rescue net which looked like a small trampoline, two-by-two. Grasping the rope supports and squeezing my eyes shut we were first dragged through the raging creek as we were lifted from the boat and then up high — dangling in midair from the helicopter. My mind was on complete hold at that time. It was as if it was still a bad dream. Finally, the net was lowered to the highway and we touched our feet to solid ground — wet, cold, and "still in a daze."

Thanks to wonderful people, dry blankets were thrown over us and we were led away to a dry, clean home where we stayed that night. It’s very hard to describe your feelings of helplessness and hopelessness when all you have are the clothes on your back, not a penny in your pocket, nor your glasses or hearing aid. (All belongings had been left at the house.) However, as reality set in, we realized how thankful we were to everyone that we were safe and sound!

While living with a kindhearted friend for months afterwards, we began sorting and trashing (it’s surprising what you can live without!). Having sustained countless losses in our business and personal life, we realized we still have the most valuable gift — each other! After many months of tears and reliving the memories of before and after the flood, we have relocated to higher ground. Thanks to the generosity and helping hands of our large family, our friends, our community, churches, and other groups, we have begun rebuilding our lives into some semblance of order.

Click on the following links below to read the corresponding stories
Elaine Kolodziej Sheryl Camber Florence and Robert Higgins
Fabian and Lorraine Lyssy Tambria L. H. Read Margie Keutz
Jerry (Mrs. Johnny) Kypfer Marty Kufus Vicki Poore
Amanda Lewanski Marianne Hall-Little