April 2, 2009 at 6:52 a.m.
Dan Sandgren (2007 graduate of Chisago Lakes High School) - attends North Dakota State University (NDSU), where classes were canceled last week and this week to allow the students to help out with sandbagging and other volunteer efforts.
"I started sandbagging last Monday March 23," he said. "It was amazing how many people were helping out. I helped build a dike in North Fargo, and I thought it was amazing that we were actually building dikes. My uncle Jeff Sandgren is the pastor at Olivet Lutheran Church in Fargo. I helped him sandbag around some parishoners' houses.
"When we were helping at one house, the next door neighbor was building a plywood structure to try to keep the water back. I heard later that that didn't work out too well."
Mitch Peterson and Dan Bowyer, two friends of Dan's who also graduated from Chisago Lakes High School, drove up from Mankato to help out with sandbagging last Thursday.
Brett Stage (Wildcat class of 2006) is a junior at NDSU studying psychology and child development family science. She said "I came back from spring break on the 22nd, they had canceled classes at Moorhead State and Concordia, but not at NDSU. When I got to class Monday morning, the professor told us classes had been canceled. So every day that week I and my roommates and my boyfriend went down to the Fargodome and got bussed out. We worked sandbagging in South Fargo, Moorhead and North Fargo.
"My boy friend's garden level apartment in North Fargo was in danger, so we moved all his stuff to my third-floor room on campus to keep it safe. When we looked out the window, we could see a lot of helicopters about a mile north. It was kind of cool."
Brett works part-time at the Target store in Fargo. She said, "Target stayed open. There were a lot of people walking around in Target, but not really buying anything. I think they were just bored since a lot of other things were shut down."
Cameron Novak (Chisago class of 2006) is also a junior at NDSU and is a volunteer firefighter in the Harwood, North Dakota Volunteer Fire Department. Cameron said, "Last week, I sandbagged all day Monday and half the day Tuesday before I headed down to St. Cloud to a fire investigators' conference, where I met up with my dad. On Thursday, I got a call from one of the guys in our fire department. He said they needed help, so I left St Cloud at midnight and got back into Fargo at 3 a.m. on Friday. We helped to evacuate the area hospitals. There were between 80 and 120 ambulances taking people to hospitals all over the place in Minnesota and North Dakota. Sandbagging was hard work, but it was fun.
"I spent a lot of time talking to people who had been complete strangers before this, including a couple of guys who had driven up from Rochester and Willmar. Rob Monson was on spring break from Hamline and he decided to come up and help sandbag."
Clare (McElrath) Kazmierczak had the distinction of being in Fargo for both the 1997 flood and this year's flood. She was a student at NDSU in 1997 and graduated with an education degree. She taught school for several years, and now is a stay-at-home mom. Last year, her husband Wayne got a job as assistant superintendent for the Moorhead School District. With the flood approaching, Wayne volunteered to be the flood coordinator for the school district. Clare said, "When I was in college in 1997, I did sandbagging all the time. This time, Wayne did sandbagging and I stayed home with the kids. Late last week, we had to be evacuated because our neighborhood in South Moorhead was threatened. Wayne stayed up there and I headed down here with the kids Anna, 4 and Vincent, 1. We didn't have any water in our basement when we left. It's going to be a big project taking down all those sandbags. "
Ashley Hansen (Wildcat class of 2006) attends NDSU and is a junior in interior design. "I did sandbagging last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I went home for an internship interview on Thursday and came back up afterwards to help again. That day, we were sandbagging in a neighborhood in South Moorhead. A couple hours after we left one of the levees gave way and they had to evacuate the whole neighborhood.
"This is totally different than anything I've ever experienced. I live two blocks from campus. My apartment is totally safe and so is NDSU." Checking in with Hansen on Monday of this week, she said that four inches of snow had already fallen and they were predicting up to eight more inches. Mother Nature is sure adding insult to injury.
Serena Pitala (2004) and Christine Fitzer (2004) headed up to Fargo last Thursday when the call went out for more volunteers. Serena said, "After the 1997 flood, someone from the National Guard came to our school and talked to us about sandbagging. I've wanted to do it ever since. So I grabbed Christine and we headed up there."
Christine said, "We got up there at 10 p.m. Thursday and worked all night. We checked people in at the Fargodome, then worked filling bags at sandbag central and, finally, helped with sandbagging at one of the dikes. When we were on top of the dike, it was weird because the water was rushing by just a couple of feet below. We were exhausted by six in the morning and decided to head back down to the Cities, because once the sandbagging was done they didn't need extra people hanging around the area."
Serena added "It was interesting seeing the view from the dike because the water was rushing by so fast it was leaving huge wakes behind the half-submerged trees. That was when it finally hit me about what a big deal this whole thing was."
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