Raising hope for flood victims and humanity
The first lyrics to Mary Rose Varo's "One Common Hope" came to her while she was mowing the lawn not too long after last summer's devastating flood. Her friend, videographer Rory Butkiewicz, had left a phone message suggesting she write a song about the flood -- instead, Varo said, she decided the song should tell the story of how people came together to help one another during and after the flood.
"Wasn't the feeling amazing, working shoulder to shoulder, just helping?" said the singer/songwriter. "It seemed like the boundaries were down and we all had so much in common. The flood was a great leveler."
The words that came with the hum of the mower eventually formed part of the chorus for Varo's song:
We have found today,
one common hope,
one common trust,
one common faith,
is in each one of us.
We'll rise today, to rise above
And we'll wade through this uncommon common ground.
We'll find the strength to somehow carry on
'cause doing it all together,
We have found one common love.
A year later, thanks to the combined efforts of many photographers, a choir of local residents, and the combined efforts of Varo, Butkiewicz and sound engineer Bill Taylor, the "One Common Hope" flood relief video debuted the afternoon of the Moose Lake Area Music Festival on June 22.
The eight-minute video was shown inside the theater during the day and outside on a large sheet during the street dance that night. Starting with the jarring buzzer and mechanical voice of a National Weather Service flash flood warning for Carlton and St. Louis counties, then leading into Varo's song accompanied by still photos and videos, the video paints a vivid picture of what went on during and after the flood. It is a unique overview, something not many people -- who were too busy living the experience in their own part of the county -- got to see.
Beyond recording the most dramatic flood in recent memory, the goal of the video memory was twofold, Varo said.
First there is the practical reason:
"I don't think a lot of people are aware that there is a long-term need for flood relief," she said, adding that they are asking people to donate to the regional Flood Homes With Hope effort. Second, there's a certain spiritual attitude behind the project.
"If we can make a video that reminds us of how good we really are, that inspires us all to give more, something that makes anyone who sees it think 'That's right, that's who we are as people,' and celebrate the goodness ... Artistically, that's all I can do," she said. "I think we've done a pretty good job with that. The video really captured the way it was and captured a feeling."
The video ends with footage from last summer's Moose Lake July Fourth parade. Members of the Challenge Incarceration Program -- who were grand marshals in recognition of all their help with sandbagging and otherwise fighting the flood -- are marching and chanting a cadence written especially for the occasion.
"What a sight it was to see,
One big strong community.
Hand in hand
And side by side ..."
"It's really about everyone helping, how meaningful it was," Varo said. "And that doesn't have to be over."
To donate (or ask for help with ongoing flood-related problems), call 218-499-9480 or go online to www.floodhomeswithhope.org. Link to the "One Common Hope" video from Flood Homes with Hope or find it on You Tube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlmmAPrYUyE.