Danny Henley: Putting flood fears to rest
As was the case in 1993, the flood of 2008 generated a good deal of concern around the country about the well-being of America’s hometown – Hannibal, Mo.
Like many in Hannibal, Beau Hicks, executive director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, has fielded numerous phone calls from potential visitors who were concerned about the city’s status.
Their anxiety was fueled by media reports of failed levees and ongoing efforts to hold back the Mississippi River in communities up and down the waterway.
Not all flood-related inquiries have come to places like the convention and visitors bureau or chamber of commerce.
Friday night, while on a walk with my wife, Nancy, we encountered Jim Woychuk, pastor of the Hannibal Evangalical Free Church. He reported receiving an assortment of calls from family and friends about the proximity of his family’s Oakwood home to the flood waters.
At the Henley household, few calls regarding the rising river were fielded. The lone expression of concern for our well-being came from my grandson Jostin, who will be entering the first grade when the next school year begins.
Amanda, Jostin’s mom, said her family has been watching several of the videos that I have produced for the paper in recent weeks. Of special interest to her young brood has been those dealing with the flood.
One day recently I received an e-mail from Amanda informing me that Jostin was concerned that we might be flooded out. Even though Amanda had done her best to ease her young son’s concerns, she felt it might benefit him to hear from me that everything was all right in Hannibal.
Although he has visited our home before, Jostin has no way of knowing that because of where our house is located it would literally take a flood of biblical proportions before we’d ever have water lapping at our front door. Telling my grandson that we were safe at home seemed to effectively allay his concerns.
Since I had Jostin on the phone, I made a point of telling him that I had recently taken a boat ride with two Hannibal firefighters in order to take photos and shoot some video of the high water. Amanda said that news had Jostin smiling from ear to ear.
Amanda said her son, like countless others around the nation, wants to be a fireman when he grows up.
I told Jostin that if he comes to see me I’ll do my best to take him by one of Hannibal’s fire stations to see their fire engines and meet some real firemen. Needless to say, my stock as a grandpa soared in Jostin’s eyes as a result of my offer.
Because the Hannibal Courier-Post plant is located in the downtown area, I mentioned to Amanda that we, like many businesses near the flood wall, had formulated plans on what we should do if the river were to breach the city’s levee. Since Jostin was still listening to the conversation, I stressed that while I was confident the city’s levee would stand firm, that represented my best chance at getting my feet wet.
I visited a little bit longer with Amanda and Jostin before our conversation ended. The very next day I received another e-mail from my daughter. She reported that after we were done talking, Jostin charged into the room of his sister, Aurora, who was taking a nap.
“Grandpa’s OK at home, but he’s gonna get wet at work!” Jostin squealed.
Sounds like I need to make another phone call to my grandson.