Tales from the flood: Roslyn’s story

‘United Methodists rescued me’

By Jessica Brodie

COLUMBIA—A year after the flood, Roslyn Shaw still has anxiety attacks anytime it rains. She hyperventilates, and she has to take medication just to get through the storm.

But as each day passes, she’s getting there. And thanks to help from people she calls “United Methodist angels,” this woman of faith is not only almost back in her home, but she has a renewed appreciation for her Christian brothers and sisters, who showed her what it means to be God’s hands and feet for others.

“Nothing that can flow out of my mouth would say what my heart and my mind and my soul just cry out,” a grateful Shaw says today, nearly one year after Oct. 4 floodwaters swamped her tri-level home, causing so much mold and mildew damage that she and her disabled adult daughter had to move out and seek refuge with friends and other family. “If there are guardian angels, truly they've come my way. I realize how blessed I am. I know lives were lost, and I know some people lost their entire homes. Mine has been repairable.”

Shaw, who was emotionally traumatized from her experience, remembers most of the details of what happened Oct. 4, 2015, when her life changed forever.

She and others had just gone to see a concert, and while she’d heard about the rain and saw on their way home how heavy the downpour was getting, she didn’t think much about it. After all, she lived in Columbia, not the coast, and dismissed it as just a bad storm.

She retired for the night, but at 4 a.m., the Lord woke her up, and she was shocked to hear the water literally banging on the house. Her adult son slept over on occasion, so she decided to walk to the basement level to check on the bedroom and bathroom down there, make sure everything was safe and sound.

But when she got to the bottom level, “There was just water everywhere. It was rushing through the foundation, just flowing in,” said Shaw, 55, who works for a law enforcement agency and is a member of a Columbia-area Baptist church. “I’m thinking, ‘What are we going to do? What’s supposed to be done?’ You just don't know.”

She had on slipper socks, and she took another step down and slipped and fell, waking the entire house. Immediately, her family came to her rescue—then looked around and turned their attention to rescuing the house. Quickly, they discovered pipes had burst in the kitchen, and more than two inches of water covered the ground floor.

They got to work, doing their best to salvage what they could. She had just purchased new furniture, so the family worked hard to cover the furniture and get the television up.

“I had two buckets—one to clean cars, one to wash floors—and I just thought, ‘Let’s get the water out from downstairs,’ but it was still raining, so the more we were trying to dump outside, the more was coming in,” Shaw said.

A plumber friend managed to come at daybreak and turn off the pipes in the kitchen, but by then, the damage had been done—and still the rain kept coming.

Picking up the pieces

Days after the storm, the sun came out, and that’s when things really began to fall apart. While the water had been removed from the house, it left behind mold and mildew, which grows rapidly in the sun.

“There was mold and mildew up the walls, collecting in the corners,” Shaw said.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency came out within three or four days, took one look and delivered news that hit hard.

“The air quality awful, the stench was awful, and they said we need to move out of the house immediately,” Shaw said.

She moved her disabled daughter to her brother’s home, helped other relatives get where they needed to be, then realized she herself had no place to stay. Hotel bills were starting to rack up, not to mention medical bills from the nasty fall she took down the slippery basement stairs, and the money was running out. FEMA told her to keep her receipts, but she didn’t know whether she could even get through one more day.

“I kept thinking, ‘This isn’t going to be long; this will be OK,’ but I was exhausted,” Shaw said.

That’s when she saw the commercial about The United Methodist Church being there to help after the storm, and she picked up the phone and called for help.

‘Guardian angels’

From that moment on, she said, “United Methodists rescued me.”

UMC caseworkers and disaster workers, including UMCSC Director of Recovery Ministries Ward Smith, came to assess the damage, then quickly got to work. They put up gutters on the house, new flooring, new closet doors to replace ones destroyed by mold and mildew, and more.

“They even put latches on the doors!” Shaw said, calling the teams her guardian angels. “They did everything—it was like a miracle. United Methodists went far and beyond my wildest expectations.”

She was about to move back into the house when water was discovered inside the air conditioning unit. As soon as that unit is repaired, she’ll be back in.

Today, while Shaw still struggles when it rains, she knows it is a temporary wound, one that is healing as each day passes, and the gratitude she feels for the United Methodist disaster teams grows stronger and stronger.

“A person would need to go through it to know what it feels like,” Shaw said. “But I will be back to Roslyn; I’m going to get back to where I was. I am not trying to look through a rearview mirror, just trying to look forward.

“I feel blessed.”

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