Barnum couple weathers loss of baby and the floodRichard Barber had returned home to start the pump in his basement after spending the night in the hospital with his wife who had given birth the night before the storm. The baby, Spencer, was stillborn.
By: Jana Hollingsworth, Duluth News Tribune
Richard Barber stood outside his Barnum home last Wednesday watching the Moose Horn River reach his house.
The record-setting rain had stopped, but the river continued to rise. By inches, it rose quickly, covering his house’s foundation.
“Then it was at the bottom of the floorboards,” he said. “That’s when I had to leave.”
Barber had returned home to start the pump in his basement after spending the night in the hospital with his wife who had given birth the night before the storm. The baby, Spencer, was stillborn.
“Emotionally, I couldn’t handle it,” Barber said. “With the loss of the baby, do I stay here and watch my house get swallowed by a river or do I go and be with my wife? Family comes first. I had to walk away from the house.”
The water eventually topped out at 27 inches inside the first floor of the two-story home. Family, friends and strangers, seeing what was happening, took charge and carried out as much of the family’s belongings as they could. Much of it already was destroyed. The family lost all furniture and appliances. Materials meant for renovation of a downstairs bedroom and a new bathroom, all ready to be finished that week in preparation for the baby’s arrival, were ruined. Some clothes were saved, along with a computer that contained hundreds of photos.
Shallon Barber, recovering from an emergency Caesarean section, was helpless in her hospital bed. She received updates by phone and worried about family photos and the favorite outdoor toys of their three children, floating away. This followed mulling the decision to donate parts of Spencer’s heart. The couple said it was an easy decision, knowing it would help up to three other babies.
“If there would have been someone out there to help him I would have been very grateful,” Shallon said.
Dealing with two huge losses at the same time has been overwhelming, the couple said.
“It hasn’t sunk in. I’m still stuck in last week,” Shallon said.
On Tuesday, water was still being pumped out of the Barbers’ basement. A stack of drawers with clothes still stuffed inside sat on the driveway. The family’s red porch was resting in bushes across the street. Tall water lines were visible throughout the first floor of the house, which qualifies as a total loss, Richard said, according to a county assessor who’d come through.
What that means, where the family rebuilds and how they will pay for it are questions that remain, Richard said. The family is unsure of whether they should tear down and rebuild the house next to the Barnum City Park that the river runs through, or move to higher ground.
“Could you deal with it again?” he asked. “Personally, I’d love to get above water at this point.”
The Barbers, who have lived in their Barnum home for three years, hope to stay in the community. They moved from the Twin Cities area to be closer to Shallon’s family, and have enjoyed the tightly-knit town with their children, ages 4, 7 and 10. Both Shallon and Richard have close ties to the Northland, having attended Denfeld High School. The couple is grateful to those who helped save their possessions, but hopes others in town get help, too.
“We don’t feel we deserve any more help than others,” Shallon said, noting a room in the Barnum Community United Methodist Church already holds donations for them sent after their story was shared on a Twin Cities TV station.
The Barbers, staying with family in Barnum, were busy this week planning Spencer’s funeral along with attending community meetings and dealing with their home.
“You don’t know how you even go through it,” Richard said. “You just move on.”