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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

There are two types of people and disasters bring out both

If anyone is entitled to express an opinion on the flood disaster unfolding across Victoria it is FRAN CLELAND. In 2014, her family lost their home, their animals and their horses in the Kilmore-Mickleham fires. She has this to say about what she has been seeing online this week.

ABOVE: This image of a man helping with the rescue of horses at Mangalore has gone viral. (CHANNEL 9)

OVER my life I have come to the conclusion there are two type of people: the “could have, should have, would haves”, and the helpers. The “could have, should have, would haves” are the majority. They would have handled things differently, ie, “you should have done things differently and then you could have not been in the trouble you are in”.

They were out in force this week when television stations showed the frantic efforts to save broodmares in the Goulburn Valley floods.

These people are usually looking at a TV news cast where a disaster plays out in front of their very eyes saying, “well I would have done this differently – they should have done this sooner”.

Then they take to the keyboard and not only announce their opinion to the world, but berate the people at the centre of the disaster for not doing (in their opinion) things that should have been done, that would have saved the situation.

I’ve been there. We got told the very many things we could have/should have done to save our home and animals during the bushfire that took us. This week, sick to my stomach, I watched as people on well-organised, well-run horse studs battled through flood water to save their precious mares. Straight away they were abused on social media, “they could have got them out sooner”, “should have known the waters would rise then the horses would have been safe”.

Once again, as is the usual case, their total lack of knowledge shows. In the case of our bushfire, the CFA and their computer system said the fire would turn left.

It turned right.

As we lived on the top of a hill, fire doubles its speed uphill, and we had no time. The usual rules did not apply.

In the last week’s flood, the studs did move the horses, but this is an unprecedented flood, and the usual rules again simply did not apply, and those of us who know and love our horses sat and cried as we watched them swim for their lives.

On the other side of the coin, there’s a very good saying attributed to activist, broadcaster and church minister Fred Rogers. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”

And that’s what saves us. There are always helpers. In our fire, a friend who could have left stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us, people took the surviving horses, took us into their homes, clothed us, cared for us. And it’s happened again this time. I called a friend near Shepparton and said there was a man about to go under with broodmares and racehorses, her simple answer “tell me where”.

Another family currently has fifty horses on her property and is in tears because she can’t take more. People took trucks, boats everything to help the studs, even as their own places were at risk. A really fine young man who had been filling sandbags all night spoke to me about it.

“It’s a great feeling giving back and being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Brings you back to reality,” he said.

I told him I was proud of him.

Mr Rogers was right – look for the helpers. They are always there.

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