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The Bridge

"Action is the bridge between thoughts and reality" ~ Richie Norton

I'd like there to be a future. Of course there will be a future, tomorrow will begin. But what kind of a future do you want?

I would like one for you. Safer, healthier and less fearful of flooding.

To get you there, we have to face some facts and we have to be brave enough to challenge the impossible. We have to stand up to bullies. We have to want a safer environment for the generations who follow.

And you must believe you and your neighbors deserve it.

For 45 years I have crossed the Neosho Bridge to work first as Indian Counselor for Miami schools and since retirement as executive director for LEAD Agency.

The Neosho River bridge built in 1901 operated as a toll bridge and my grandfather and 4 other men were the owners. There were great ties with Ottawa County in our family history. Some of those have proven to be part of my motivation to keep crossing the Grand Neosho. The other motivation has been you. The hundreds, thousands of you who walked through my office door, first at Will Rogers and later at Miami High School, those who became Indian Club members, perhaps not native, but delighted to learn and be part of learning the culture of your friends and classmates. Later many became members of the Cherokee Volunteer Society, or your teachers allowed class assignments to lead what you learned to serve others. Hundreds of you received presidential service awards for your efforts.

I am calling on each of you to consider doing another act of service. It doesn't cost you anything, there is no toll to pay to do it.

Simply walk backward in your mind. Pick any of your remembered floods. Pick up a piece of paper and write down how any of them effected you. While you are doing this, I am mindful it may bring back feelings you have held back and suppressed. When you have finished, you may return to it and add a few more details. Perhaps your dog's name, perhaps the color of your most comfortable couch. How long your mother worked on that "rag rug" and whose clothes were used to make it. Nudge on your memory. Admit your feelings.

Then I am asking you to consider writing it in an email that will go to the only federal agency that can do anything to protect you from another flood in the future, FERC, the agency that is in the process of re-licensing the Pensacola Dam. Will anyone read your story? Do your words matter in the large scheme of things? What if they got three thousand stories? Ten thousand stories?

And what if you don't take time to dredge back in your memory? What if the lawyers for the City's efforts don't work to stall or hold back the lake rise?

You may have to pay the toll. Of higher costs for flood insurance, more risks of flooding each time the rains return. And the list of losses each flood takes from you.

So pick up a simple pencil, or sit at your computer, start putting your story together, work on it, add the emotions you have stuffed all these years. Revisit the losses, go walk the property you had to leave, build this story. There are already journalists wanting them. FERC hasn't asked for them. But all of these remembrances need to be shared.

The bullies who want to be in charge of your life don't want these stories told. But you were brave as young people. You took on the world. You spoke up to bullies and you know how to do it. As adults you have settled in and perhaps raised a family, worked a job, perhaps in a business that periodically flooded or could not get to your job because of flooding.

That's what happened to me. I remember being the last car to go over the Neosho bridge one time, the road beyond already lapping at the edges. The farm just on the other side had a few pigs and I heard one screaming, actually it was "wee wee weeing" fearfully swimming in that water and was sucked under the road in a culvert, muffled but came out the other side loudly hoping to be helped, but there was no way to help.

We are not helpless now. We are armed with our stories. Use our Flood Map, it clearly shows the danger you face, and where you sit in the FEMA flood zones, but also how many chat piles sit there too, giving our floods an added toxic touch.

Let us know when your stories are ready.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

"Arrogance is a map of a road that leads to bridges that are out." ~ Craig D. Lounsbrough

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