“Walking around Lismore after the first flood, when there was still mud around and large piles of trashed furniture out on the street made sense of what happened. But it doesn’t make sense now”, I said to Noreen who runs the Duck Pond Espresso Coffee Shop in South Lismore.
“The night of the first flood people told me I didn’t need to worry about moving the van”, she told me this morning, adding “But I just knew I should”. She then pointed to the wall of the building next door.
Her’s was one of maybe half a dozen businesses open in the central parts of Lismore when I wandered around today.
In the CBD itself, there’s a temporary Woolworths that’s open with only two or three checkouts. Also in Lismore Central, there’s a fruit and veg shop, and a temporary coffee shop. There’s another coffee shop open on Keen Street, and the Pie Van has also reopened. But that’s pretty much it.
Everything else in Central Lismore, South Lismore and North Lismore remains pretty much closed.
As I wandered around there were lots of blokes in hi-viz. Largely it seemed they were still in salvage mode rather than re-build mode.
There were moments when I got a little bit teary about my hometown. The town where I was born and raised, have continued to think of as “home”, and where I have been planning to retire. Though I personally have managed to avoid the devastation of the two recent floods, I feel like some of my dreams have also been shattered.
And then of course, there’s the impact on my family which I’ve written about here. I managed to get some photographs off my nephew’s phone of what it was like inside our house on the Sunday night/Monday morning of the first flood before they were rescued. There’s a photograph of Pat sitting on the kitchen benchtop with water up to her knees. An hour later, she had water to her chest. An hour later, she would have drowned.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people in Sydney”, I told Noreen, “and they just don’t understand the devastation. Lots of people have kept in touch, wishing me and everyone the best. Lots of people have donated money and goods, including directly to my family. But they still don’t really know”.
“Walking around after the first flood made sense. But walking around today doesn’t make much sense. All you can see are empty shops, collapsed buildings including houses washed off their stumps, and there’s erosion along the riverbank. But the river is back to normal. And it’s a lovely sunny day. It just doesn’t make sense.”