Love Thy Neighbor

These neighbors helped each other survive difficult times, and formed lasting bonds in the process

Karla Smith and Melissa Garcia

Being a good neighbor is more than just sparing a cup of sugar or lending a ladder. Whether it’s taking turns cooking dinner once a week or stepping in to care for someone who is sick, neighbors can become an extended family. Here, ALL YOU readers share stories about the extraordinary people on their block who went above and beyond, lending a helping hand in hard times and strengthening their community. 

‘My neighbors supported one another during a catastrophic flood’ - Melissa Garcia, 35, Edmond, Okla.

Two months after we moved into our house in Edmond last year, a devastating flood tore through our neighborhood. That June morning, I remember thinking there was an awful lot of rain. When I phoned home to check on my son, who was then 10, he screamed that there was water everywhere. I raced home in a panic, and when I finally reached my street, there were so many fire trucks and ambulances lined up I couldn’t see my house.

As the water kept rising, my husband, Daniel, was doing what he could to help. He and two men from the neighborhood freed an elderly woman who was trapped in her car. Daniel also carried the 2-year-old son of our next-door neighbor across the water while

she grabbed what she could from their house. We all raided our closets for blankets to pass around, since everyone was so cold from the water. We huddled together while we watched most of

our possessions float away. The water had risen, rushing over cars and flooding homes. We would need to replace our carpeting, our appliances and nearly all our furniture, which we had just bought for our new home.

The cleanup was a massive community effort. We had an overwhelming amount of help pour in from friends and family, as well as companies that donated cleaning supplies. My neighbor Karla Smith was one of the people who became advocates for the neighborhood, going door to door with information about rescue efforts and how to get flood assistance—even speaking with our congressman on our behalf. Karla and I became friends, helping each other deal with our losses, especially the sentimental belongings, like family photos and videos. We bonded the most with our neighbors over how tough it was to lose so much and to fight so hard to get any kind of assistance. Our family was about $50,000 in debt from structural damage to our home alone, and ours was not an uncommon story.

We’re finally living in our home again, but some of our neighbors are still rebuilding. Others might never return. We lost a lot, but out of this catastrophe we gained friends and a sense of community.