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Published June 02 2012

Disbelief at destruction, believing in rebuilding

MINOT, N.D. – Brenda Demke was hundreds of miles away with her newborn granddaughter when she got the bad news in a call from her husband.

“He sounded sick, and I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ He said, ‘Well, we’re going to get it. We’re going to get it,’ ” Demke, 57, said. “I didn’t believe him.”

It was June 20, 2011. The Souris River was rising, and she’d just been told her home would undoubtedly be one of its many victims.

“You’re in total disbelief,” she said in a recent interview in the backyard of her home not far from the Arrowhead Shopping Center. “You just keep thinking that it’s just not going to get to this neighborhood because it didn’t in ’69. So, we didn’t understand how it could.”

But it did and, almost a year later, Brenda and her husband, Bob, are among the thousands across Minot working to make homes whole again.

From her back porch, the sights and sounds of reconstruction filled the street. A saw buzzed in the background at a neighbor’s house as she recalled the past year.

On that difficult June day, she asked Bob if she should return from Sioux Falls, S.D., to help him pack up their house. But he said there wasn’t enough time.

With help from relatives, he took load after load of their belongings to safety in relatives’ garages as the city faced its second evacuation. He then joined her in Sioux Falls.

The flood became real when a relative saw their home on TV with water up to the windows in the front bedroom.

“That’s when I broke down,” Brenda Demke said.

In July, they went to see their home and faced the shock of how much damage water can do.

The couple moved into a townhouse but decided they would rebuild the home they had lived in since 1985.

The Demkes gutted and insulated their home themselves. The two teachers hope to move back in July and then rent out their townhouse. Every day after school is spent working on some issue related to rebuilding, Demke said.

It’s been a year of learning to ask for help and learning that people are willing to lend their support, she said.

“Both of us have tried to be very upbeat,” she said. “The key thing is, it’s a difficult situation for so many people. We’re not alone in it.”

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Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.