It’s hard for people not affected by a tragedy such as the historic flooding of 2007 in Southeast Minnesota and Southwest Wisconsin to experience the terror and heartbreak of those who were.
The story of the Partington family of Brownsville, Minnesota perhaps comes closest to making that connection because it played out before our eyes.
Lynn Partington’s ordeal on August 19, 2007 was among the most well documented of the storm. He shared his story with News 19.
"As bad as things are we’re still alive"
And ABC News.
"It was like a doll house being blown over. My first thought was no one could survive that."
The heavy rains that night caused a mudslide that brought a wall of mud rushing down the bluff in Brownsville just after 1 a.m., destroying their home.
Lynn, his wife, and their grandson suffered minor injuries.
"I ran for my life, I ran down to the street and then I looked back and I saw the roof lift up, turn 90 degrees then drop onto the street."
Today, all that remains is an empty lot. Even now, ten years later, the memories are too painful.
"Its hard to come here. Its such a beautiful view. Of course we did have a beautiful home. If I stay away I don’t think about it."
This drone video shows what the washed out bluff looks like today, and the surgical path the mudslide took as it bore down on their home is still visible.
"I have flashbacks especially when we have a lot of rain. And when we have these real heavy rains I don’t sleep at night I get up and look out the window. It’s just something you have to live with."
Lynn and his wife Sharon lived in their dream home for 17 years and had hoped to spend their retirement here. Its perch overlooking the Mississippi River is breathtaking. But after what happened, Lynn has no desire to rebuild here.
"After walking up that road today and seeing that boulder at the bottom of the steps, seeing the trees that are knocked down up above, its not safe to be here. "
"It was almost deafening, just the way it was rushing through and hitting the branches and the trees."
While the Partington’s ordeal was very well documented, La Crescent Police Officer Mike Ernster faced that day ten years ago lives only in his memory.
"I got goosebumps right now to be honest with you."
This tree might be the one that saved his life that night.
It looked much different when Mike arrived that night. Pine Creek is just a meandering stream today. But that night it was a raging river…
Mike had arrived to answer a call to help rescue three people whose car was washed off the road and into the creek. But Ernster quickly learned he was in for a harrowing ordeal.
"Super fast water, dark dirty water just ripping through the trees."
His small boat overturned and the current washed him downstream. Luckily he grabbed onto a tree and told rescuers to help others in danger.
As he waited for rescue, with his life literally hanging in the balance, he recalls a feeling of calm.
"When I was in the second tree. I kept singing ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ just to keep from thinking about my wife and family and everything else that was going on."
And he says the experience gave him a new appreciation for the things we tend to take for granted.
"When you’re young you think you’re invincible. You appreciate things a lot more."
Lynn Partington shared similar thoughts.
"We’re survivors. It could have been worse."
And he hopes his family’s story can inspire others going through difficult times.
"Persevere, take it one day at a time, and things will get better."