“This is all happening very quickly and there is brown water all around.”
That’s what Emily remembers from the early morning rescue from her family home in Abbotsford’s Sumas Prairie in November 2021. She kept her eyes closed as a helicopter lifted her and her family to safety in Chilliwack.
Emily is just one of many Abbotsford children who were whisked from their beds in the dark, pouring rain. Some were separated from family members who had to drive animals to safety. Some left their pets behind.
And like many of the adults who fought back against the floodwaters, many of those children are still struggling with post-traumatic stress.
That includes 14-year-old Anna Konrad, a Grade 8 at Abbotsford Christian School. She recently created a five-episode podcast, titled Kids Talk about the Abbotsford Flooding, to try to help process their collective and individual trauma.
She’s also hoping that politicians and others will listen to it. Ultimately, she’s hoping a flood like that never happens to anyone again.
Konrad created several hours of recorded interviews for the podcast project for school, including the interview with Mason, and the result is now available online on SoundCloud, Amazon Music and other providers.
“I’m quite proud of it,” Konrad said, and her dad helped her find the best ways to create and edit a podcast. They ended up recording with Audacity, which Konrad had used for school before, and Podbean for the streaming host. It took hours every night of editing, along with time spent planning, thinking about it, writing out essay work, and the interviews themselves.
The episodes are short, with a total run time of about an hour between all five.
One of her interviews was with Dr. Michelle Superle from UFV, who also noticed that kids were suffering with post-traumatic stress due to the flooding and created an art and writing contest to help them process emotions. In the 15-minute episode featuring Superle, the listener learns about the importance of guided writing exercises and how they help the brain make sense of our lived experiences.
Guided writing allows us to form a story that has a beginning, middle and end, she explained to Konrad.
“And once we’ve made sense of it, we can file it away in the done category,” she said.
But Konrad’s not done quite yet. While she’s finished the podcast series, for now, she also has sent out letters to 17 elected officials in a position to make changes to flood management, diking and cross-border discussions with American decision makers.
As of this week, she had heard back from most of Abbotsford council. But she also sent out missives to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier David Eby, as well as a few ministers with related portfolios. She wants to keep the topic at the top of their minds, and hopes the unique voices of children will push them to keep it at the forefront of funding and planning.
“I’m very happy with it, and that I’m able to do something,” she said. “It has been so traumatic for so many people and such a big part of my life. Right after the flood I was scared to go outside and scared of this happening again. But it helps to write it out and talk about it.”
In the first episode, Konrad describes that night on the Sumas Prairie as quiet, as she watched the land being swallowed by water and the red and blue lights of police cars coming through the windows.
Konrad also interviewed a girl named Emily, who was piggybacked out of the floods because the water was already up to her chest. She remembers the clothes they tried to bring with them floating around them in the dark, dirty water.
“We dropped a lot of things trying to get out,” she said.
She also spoke to kids who were helpers even as they were being rescued, like Jordyn, who helped a massive effort to warm up cold and wet calves as they were brought to a rescue centre. They used towels, blankets and blow dryers to warm the calves up and keep them alive.
“It felt good to do my part. I knew even those animals were scared and not knowing if they would survive,” she said. “I assume they are happy, healthy cows just living their best life at some farm.”
As for her feelings these days, the heavy rains bring back the fear. It’s a common feeling even for adults in the Sumas Prairie, many who watch the skies much differently these days, and cringe at the phrase “atmospheric river.”
Mason and his family were back within a few days to clean things up, volunteer, and restore their home and property. But it took seven months of rebuilding before they could move back home. He was one of the many children who helped however they could by demolishing old buildings, cleaning up garbage, and hoping to be over this hurdle.
He said he hopes his voice is heard across the border by officials there, too.
“I feel like there is some sort of technology that could help control waters and rivers,” he said. “I feel like the USA should build some ditches and dikes to prevent their stuff from coming to us.”
To hear her podcast, search Kids Talk about the Abbotsford Flooding wherever you download music.