Minot's flood evacuees are drawing strength from their community's support and their own personal fortitude.
Louis "Mac" McLeod, director of the Minot Area Homeless Coalition, visits the Red Cross shelters every day and finds people holding up well.
"All the people I have met have a stiff upper lip. We sit around, we talk, we laugh," he said. "We are going to rise again. We are like the phoenix."
Jill Schramm/MDN • An evacuee sits among rows of cots in the Minot Municipal Auditorium’s Red Cross shelter Friday.
The mood was more somber for some displaced residents at a city news conference Friday. The strain was apparent on faces showing fatigue and sadness. Giving hugs and stemming tears, people sought to press on through a situation over which they have no control.
Along with sadness and worry, there was gratefulness, for people and places to stay.
It's the people, said John MacMartin in describing what gives him strength. MacMartin, president of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce and a resident of Eastwood Park, saw his home dry on Thursday. But reports were not good for neighborhood on Friday.
At the Red Cross shelter in Minot Municipal Auditorium, Tim Floyd worried more for his friend, the owner of his mobile home park, than for himself. Most of the homes in his park are rentals, and the financial hit to the business will be tremendous, he said.
"I pretty much got out with the clothes on my back me and my dog," said Floyd, a disabled veteran who earned two Purple Hearts while in Iraq in 2006 with the Army National Guard.
A volunteer bought him some clothes and has made it a point to walk his dog every day at the animal shelter.
"Everyone around here has been really awesome very helpful," he said.
As a renter, he feels he can move on after the flood.
"There's nothing you can do about it," he said. "All you can do is make the best of it try and keep smiling. Eventually, this will be over."
Dona Young, 87, was cheery in describing her pleasure in life in the shelter. She also took little more than some clothes in her evacuation but was thrilled to be warm after experiencing problems with the heating system in her house in northeast Minot. She was so enjoying herself that she turned down an opportunity to move into a temporary home.
"This is just a blessing," she said of the shelter. Having been experiencing weight loss, she expects that health issue to be corrected if she stays long in the shelter.
"I got up and had two doughnuts and two cups of coffee and ruined my breakfast. I thought that was breakfast. Then they came out with the sausage and the pancakes," she said.
As much as the food, though, she enjoys the Texas oil workers at the shelter who make her laugh, the kindness of the volunteers and the attention from the politicians, even when they wake her up to give her a hug. Still, she looks forward to someday going home.
"If the home is gone, that's too bad but it happens," she said. "If you lose it all, you can't cry forever, and if you don't lose it all, there's no need to cry at all."
The lack of a home is just one concern of evacuees. In some cases, employers shut down either because of flooded buildings or lack of business caused by the flooding. One evacuee at the Red Cross shelter was looking to transfer to her employer's Bismarck office and could only hope housing came with the transfer.
Kenneth Pruitt was without work when the KFC restaurant on North Hill closed. He and his wife, Ruth, remain optimistic about their home, though, which was built high despite being in an evacuation zone in southeast Minot. They feel more sadness for others whose homes are in more precarious situations. They limit watching the devastation unfold on news broadcasts.
"Then we get depressed," Ruth Pruitt said. "It's taking its toll on everybody."
The Pruitts are newcomers to Minot, having moved from Arizona two months ago, trading heat and fires for a flood.
"Actually, I am happier here," Ruth Pruitt said.
Mary Brannon moved with her husband and 10-year-old son from Tennessee to Minot two weeks ago to join her daughter, Brittany, and son-in-law Kenneth Abbott, who is stationed with Minot Air Force Base. The Brannons were displaced along with the Abbotts, who were renting in Burlington.
A hotel gave the family three free nights. Then the Brannons and Abbotts found themselves in the auditorium shelter. Brannon said her husband continues to have a job despite the flood but the disaster has put financial stress on them. They are trying to maintain good attitudes.
"We have our moments," she said. "We try to laugh."
Katrina Williams evacuated from a motel with her fiance and young daughter, where they were living while arranging to move a house from Max to Minot. Now they are staying in their van but use the services of the Red Cross shelter.
"At least we are all safe and we are together," she said.
Sharon Johnson, director at the auditorium shelter, said an increasing number of people are coming to the shelter just for meals and showers. More than 200 people have been using the auditorium shelter.
The Red Cross also has a shelter in the Minot State University Dome. An incident with sewer backup raised concerns that the shelter might have to evacuate, but Allan McGeough, director of the Red Cross chapter, said Friday afternoon that the problems appear to be under control for now.
Church groups have been arranging visits to bring words of comfort and a listening ear to people. The Red Cross is providing mental health counseling.
The Red Cross continues to welcome donations. Money donations are most useful, but there also is a need for pillow cases.