Fort Apache"--that's what a Fargo city engineer called the precariously tall dike 30 feet behind the home of Craig and Cindy Hanson. "We're pleasantly surprised it held," the engineer says.
"Me, too," says Craig, pastor of First Lutheran Church, Fargo. The dike, built mostly by volunteers from the church, held back water that was 10 feet above the lower level of his home. But there were tense moments, which revealed the strains even on those who "won the battle" to stay dry.
Dikes like the one that protected the Hanson's home are intended to last a few days, not several weeks. On April 19, city engineers said the dike had shifted under the intense pressure. "No," said an exhausted and exasperated Craig, "they're overreacting. "
But he was overruled. No longer did he have control over what happened in his back yard, a loss of control symbolic of the many ways the flood reminded people that their lives are held captive by powers larger than their own.
Calls went out to the community and church, and more than 70 people materialized within 20 minutes to reinforce the dike. Meanwhile, a caterpillar driver watched anxiously. It was his job to decide when to close a gap in a 6-foot tall earthen dike the city had built across the street from the Hanson's home in case the sandbags gave way. This would protect the next ring of homes from devastation.
The dike withstood the pressure of the water for nearly a month. "It was a long siege," Craig says. "Life becomes walking the dike and feeding all the people who help. The lack of sleep, the stress, you get emotional.
"There are moments when you want to throw in the towel because you can't go on. You say, 'It's only a house.' But it's more than that. It's the place of my family. It's where we celebrate and are together. It's from here that my twin sons will graduate."
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers