Marcy Markusa: Flood. Here we go again.
A cattle producer that I met during one of CBC's flood tours around Lake Manitoba called me last month. He was responding to an interview that I did about the level of the lake.
He challenged me on the facts and figures and who was responsible for the devastation of his land. It was a good talk.
But when I asked him if he would consider being a guest on the radio this spring, as part of the inevitable flood coverage, he just sighed.
He told me that he didn't see the point in sharing his story anymore — that people wouldn't care. He didn't want to be heard as a whiner who should just "get over it."
He said that in his community, when they read the negative comments posted online about flood victims, they just end up feeling marginalized and alone.
He didn't think it was worth it to put himself out there.
The first time I put this man's story on the air in 2011, people responded in a very different way.
Many were moved to write words of support to a tired man and his family, who had been working around the clock to move cattle off of their land.
People applauded his efforts at the time to try and keep an elderly neighbour safe as the water crept over his farmland.
They felt for him.
I wondered as I hung up the phone why that stopped.
I wondered as I hung up the phone when that stopped.
Flooding is exhausting. It's exhausting to victims and to volunteers.
But I think the reason that some people disconnect from flood victims in Manitoba isn't because they become heartless, but because floods are also exhausting to budgets.
And while we may not share the farmland on Lake Manitoba or the river view on Kingston Row, we all share the costs. And they are huge.
This week, we heard that the province could be facing up to $1 billion in lawsuits from flooded communities, that our PST will go up in part to pay for flood infrastructure, and that $2 million in flood bills are still owed to a business that became home to people from two First Nations.
It's tough to wrap your head around all of the figures.
It's easier to just check out and start thinking, "I need money for my problems too." Or, "Why don't they just move?"
But move where?
I've covered most of the floods in this province.
I've had water run over my feet in 1997 in Grande Point and been at the iconic church in Ste. Agathe as they tore out the mouldy walls.
I had to stop the CBC jeep on the road to Breezy Point because massive slabs of ice blocked the way.
I drove by, looking in disbelief at homes and cottages that were threatening to fall into Lake Manitoba, held back only by taut hydro lines attached to street poles.
Everywhere I've gone, without exception, people have broken down and simply cried.
Including me. I remember the first time.
I was in Ste. Adolphe in 1997 covering the line where people were literally fighting to get more sandbags to save their properties. Time was running out.
All of a sudden, there were helicopters overhead and we were told to leave. Emergency officials said that time was up for building dikes.
Military vehicles started driving out of the community. I followed them.
I drove the news jeep down the highway and this man in hip-waders flagged me down. He came to my driver's side window and I rolled it down.
He asked me what was happening and I had to tell him that the water was rising and the highway was about to be shut down and I had to go.
He looked at me and said something to the effect of, "That's it, then? But I'm not ready. My house will be lost."
I pulled out my microphone to get a comment. He started to cry and waved me on.
I drove on and ended up having to pull over to do my live radio hit about the situation. Once I was off the air, I sat there and wept.
I felt like a failure as a reporter because I wasn't tougher.
I felt like a failure as a human being because I wasn't kinder.
Today I try and remember that moment as a lesson about how to tell the stories of flooding in Manitoba.
There are times to be tough and there are times to be kind.
There are times to remember what our fellow Manitobans are going through and times to challenge our government on what they are spending to try and minimize damage in the long run.
And when I say "damage," I mean to our communities, to peoples' livelihoods and to our collective pocketbook.
That's their responsibility.
But I think it's our responsibility to make sure our comments on the flood are fair and with good intention.
If we can all strive for that, then perhaps I'll be able to convince that cattle producer to tell us his story in 2013.