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Published March 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

McFeely: Students save day one bag at a time

The next person in Fargo-Moorhead who dares say a bad word about college students is sentenced to a thumping on the head by a filled sandbag. The next person who suggests today’s generation of high schoolers is nothing but a bunch of slackers can kiss my mud-coated backside.

By: Mike McFeely, INFORUM

The next person in Fargo-Moorhead who dares say a bad word about college students is sentenced to a thumping on the head by a filled sandbag.

The next person who suggests today’s generation of high schoolers is nothing but a bunch of slackers can kiss my mud-coated backside.

You want a look at our future? Go to the front lines of this fight against the Red River and take a close look. See who is manning the fire brigade lines to move sandbags from trailer to dike. Take a look at who has volunteered to stand in the muck and chuck 40-pound bags all day so we, the adults who’ve chosen to live in the bottom of a bathtub, can save our houses.

Everywhere you look, there are kids. They go to Concordia or Fargo South or North Dakota State or Moorhead High or Minnesota State Moorhead or West Fargo High or M Tech. They are coming from the University of North Dakota and Concordia-St. Paul and Bemidji State. They are busing from high schools all over the area, from both sides of the Red.

We’ve yelled for help, and they’ve responded.

We appreciate all the volunteers, from points far and near, who’ve been generous enough to help. I threw sandbags Tuesday with a man from Morris, Minn., who jumped in a pickup truck with his son and a friend and drove to Moorhead just because they wanted to help. A group of people from the Twin Cities drove up in their RV and planned to stay as long as they’re needed. There are dozens of such stories.

But the kids. The wonderful kids. Where would we be without them?

With them, we have a chance. Without them, we’d have none.

At 9:30 Tuesday morning, as I was checking out the sandbagging efforts along Rivershore Drive in south Moorhead, five yellow buses bearing the name Ottertail Coaches Inc. made their way into the neighborhood and stopped along the curb. The doors opened and off stepped student after student after student, some dressed for the occasion and some not.

They were students from Fergus Falls High School in Minnesota, about 200 all told, who were asked if they’d be interested in volunteering to fight the flood. They were. Three minutes after getting off the bus, many were in a sandbag line helping raise a dike to 42 feet.

The kids are coming from all over. Detroit Lakes, Rothsay, Hatton-Northwood, Pelican Rapids, Grand Forks Central, Hawley, Waubun, Lake Park-Audubon, Grand Forks Red River. And, no doubt, from places we haven’t heard about.

We should not be surprised. Every time we battle the Red in Fargo-Moorhead, it is that generation of youngsters that literally does the heavy lifting. Who else is going to do it? Those of us in middle age don’t have the energy or the endurance or the back muscles to last long enough. Older folks simply can’t do it. So it’s left to the kids.

Check out this quote from The Forum on April 20, 1969, after the Red hit the then-remarkable crest of 37.34 feet:

“If it weren’t for the kids – the college kids, the high school kids and the elementary kids – this job wouldn’t get done,” said William Anscomb of 621 7th St. S. in Fargo.

Four decades later, those words still work.

Thank you. Thank you, thank you, 2 million times thank you.

When this is over, no matter how it turns out, I’d say we owe these kids a party they won’t forget. Flood Fest ’09, at the Fargodome, mid-July. Who’s with me?


Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely

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