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Be Prepared

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“You have 10 minutes, and then you must evacuate.”

It was February in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and the ground was still frozen solid from winter’s chill. When the temperature suddenly spiked and the clouds opened up with an unseasonable downpour, the icy ground couldn’t absorb the runoff. The St. Joseph River rose rapidly, and dams strained as the floods threatened to overtop them.

At around 11 a.m., news came that the hydroelectric dam in Berrien Springs would soon open its floodgates, releasing a pent-up wave that would sweep through the low-lying land downstream. One of those areas was a trailer park. Police officers rushed through the doomed trailer park with a stark warning: “You have 10 minutes, and then you must evacuate.”

Wanting to witness the flood of the century unfold, I went to the top of the hill about two blocks from the AFM office. From this vantage point I could see the trailer park, the bridge, the road on the other side of the bridge and the large island in the river just below the dam. The island was already mostly submerged, and the water level was rising to meet the road on the other side of the bridge. Turning my gaze to the trailer park, I saw a flurry of activity. Front-end loaders equipped with trailer hitches were pulling trailers though three-foot-deep water to safety in a parking lot on higher ground. It was a sight unlike anything I had ever witnessed.

Two men were standing nearby, and I struck up a conversation with them. They told me they were residents of the trailer park. As we talked, we watched their earthly possessions being engulfed and swept downriver.

Both of the men were avid motorcyclists, and their motorcycles seemed to be their most prized possessions. But there was one key difference. About two weeks earlier, one of the gentlemen had prepared his Harley Davidson Softail for riding, and he had been able to drive it up the hill to safety in the grocery store parking lot. Sadly, the other man’s motorcycle was not operational when the flood struck, so he had to stand helplessly and watch it disappear beneath the torrent. Oh, if only he had prepared!

Unfortunately, many people are like the second gentleman when it comes to preparing the documents that allow their wishes to be carried out after they are gone. When the floods of life strike, a little preparedness will go a long way in calming the waters for our loved ones in their time of grief.
For more information about how you can be prepared through wills, trusts and legacy gifts, please call James Petty at 269-473-4250 or email jpetty@afmonline.org.

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