MURRAY — Neighbors, community members, friends, family and strangers came together to show the true meaning of the commandment to "Love thy neighbor" on Saturday, April 27, as a wall of water, mud and boulders from a breached canal inundated a small neighborhood.
Overwhelmed neighbors who only knew each other to wave or say the occasional "hi" hugged and cried together.
The home of Debbie and Stephen Linge was one of the hardest hit. One of the first priorities was to get their three younger girls away from the scene as water continued to pour from the canal. Lindsay Pearmain took them to her home down the street, where they decided to watch the movie "Brave" because they wanted to be brave for their mom and dad.
The River 5th Ward had planned a party that day at 5 p.m. Several of the ward members were at the church preparing for the party when the breach occurred. Rushing home to find the disaster, they gathered with other neighbors to watch helplessly as the streets and homes flooded.
Because half the congregation was digging out homes instead of attending their scheduled party, River 5th Ward members took some of the food and hoisted it over a backyard fence because the main entrance to the neighborhood was blocked off by emergency personnel. Amy and Lindsay Pearmain and Lisa Walker carried down three 6-foot hoagies for the neighbors and workers.
Later that evening, when the crowd was breaking up, Tate Mooy said, "My mom and I were walking home when we met a guy named Jess. He told us how he'd been driving home and saw the neighborhood and came back because he wanted to help. I got to work with him clearing out the storm drains that were covered by all the mud. We worked with each other for about an hour where I got to learn that he didn't even know anyone in the neighborhood, but came to help because he knew he'd appreciate any bit of help if he were in the same situation. The most remarkable thing to me was that even after all the work we'd done on Saturday, he was back again Sunday, ready to work. It was just neat seeing someone sacrifice so much of their time on a Saturday evening helping out people they'd never met before based on the principle of 'doing the right thing.'"
That was just the beginning of the support that began coming in.
Sunday at 8 a.m., more than 70 volunteers showed up ready to help with gloves, shovels, rakes, buckets and wheelbarrows. Among the volunteers were neighbors, friends, River 5th Ward members, Murray High School students and complete strangers. Cleanup efforts began with volunteers shoveling mud from the sidewalks and lawns out into the street for the larger equipment to move into big trucks and haul away.
Joy Robb arrived at 8:30 and knocked on the door of one of the homes that had a basement full of mud. She said she just started helping in the house by washing dishes, cleaning and helping condense items on shelves in the garage to make room for the food storage from the basement that hadn't gotten wet. Afterward, she and others who had come to help dumped wet bags from the basement on the garage floor and documented the contents by photographing them and itemizing each in a book for insurance purposes. Robb consoled one of the young girls who was crying, "All my toys from when I was little are gone."
In a muddy stairwell, Cyndee Seare was assisting with handing up bags of muddy belongings. She said she was amazed at the number of people who had come to help. She then confided that it was the one-year anniversary of her son's death that day, and that she decided she would come and help others instead of being home feeling sad. Serving made a very difficult day easier for her, she said.
Rick Pearmain, first counselor in the River 5th Ward bishopric, took charge of the cleanup crew.
He said, "John Brown's wife (Natalie) pleaded with us that if there was any way we could could save their little boy's play set in the backyard it would provide some comfort to both she and her boy. We knew we couldn't get a Bobcat in there to remove the 2 feet of mud, so that is when we came up with the idea of the 'bucket brigade,' which was to have 10 or so people dig around the play set and have another 20-plus people form an assembly line for full buckets to be dumped while another 20-plus people form an assembly line for the empties to be returned. "
The bucket brigade was able to remove the thick dirt and mud from the backyard while keeping the play set unharmed. It also afforded a chance to help for some of the 70-plus volunteers.
One among many touching sights was a family with small children wearing snow boots and backpacks and carrying orange, kid-sized snow shovels, who came with their parents to help and to learn about service to others.
Connie Mooy said, "So many wonderful volunteers and donations. It's an overwhelming sight to see so many people of all ages shoveling and loading buckets of mud out of the yards and basements. Not to mention the city and disaster clean-up crews."
The River 5th Ward Relief Society presidency gathered water, granola bars, fruit and other snacks to start a relief station for those working.
As they were carrying a table and the supplies down the street through the mud, they stopped in the yard of Jennifer and Michael Beavers, who had already set up tables and a grill and were making breakfast of eggs and hashbrowns.
As the day went on, donations kept pouring in. Cases of water, soda, boxes of assorted snacks and sunscreen came from neighbors and friends. Lynn Cameron wheeled down his barbecue grill and two big boxes of hamburger and dozens of buns to make lunch. Home Depot drove up in a big truck loaded with bottled water, shovels, buckets and antibacterial wipes. Sam's Club and Costco were among other companies that donated supplies. Shannon Lingwall went to several food establishments and received generous donations to feed the large group.
An abbreviated sacrament meeting was held that day for the ward members. Several members stayed in work clothes and went back to help some more.
Hollie Wood said, "The 'ox was in the mire' that day. I felt it was important to leave and attend the shortened sacrament meeting because I have a strong belief in the power and blessings that come from partaking the sacrament and praying together as a congregation.
"I didn't change my clothes and noticed that the missionaries came in their work clothes as well," she said. "It wasn't about dressing to the nines to impress anyone, it was about being there to pray for our neighbors. Even though we were all working pretty hard that day to help, I never felt like it was just an ordinary day. It still felt like the Sabbath. I feel like this catastrophe has brought us closer as neighbors and friends and a community."
Bishop Trent Anderson said, "It was so amazing to me to step back and see all those people coming together to serve in any way they could. This experience and many others demonstrate the remarkable goodness of the human spirit. I believe that lives were touched and hearts were softened as the people impacted and others saw the church members step in and serve so valiantly."
One of the affected home owners, Debbie Linge, said, "Words cannot even begin to express the most overwhelming, humbling experience/trial we have ever been through. To have so many family, friends and neighbors assist us and our neighbors with our homes, moving mud, bringing food ... doing whatever was needed. My heart is so full and I just want to thank each and everyone from the bottom of my heart! Thank you for all of your prayers."
The Savior's admonition to "Love thy neighbor" was reinforced through this small, localized disaster.
Mooy expressed the sentiments of many that day: "We are here on this Earth to take care of each other and ... I find it very divinely structured that people connect in the many ways we do because we are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. We are not meant to be on this Earth for ourselves or by ourselves. "