While we are looking at the flooding events of 1993 and 2008 in the United States that impacted historic bridges, this month of June also marks a somber anniversary. 10 years ago this month, the Great Flood of 2013 occurred in much of Germany. It was the second “century flood” in 11 years. And while the Great Flood of 2002 devastated the eastern half of Germany and Eastern Europe, destroying hundreds of bridges and tens of thousands of homes, putting cities such as Dresden, Magdeburg and Hamburg almost completely underwater, the Great Flood of 2013 was less severe as residents and city governments were much more prepared for such an event, having built dikes and flood control systems, having built bridges that withstand the floodwaters, and in worst cases, having forced residents in low-lying areas to relocate on a permanent basis. However, unlike the Great Flood of 2002, cities in other regions who did not feel the rath of Mother Nature got it head-on with the one in 2013.
Apart from Glauchau, Chemnitz, and Leipzig-Halle, floodwaters also reached Jena, in eastern Thuringia. There, half of the city center of the university community of 130,000 was underwater, together with 70% of the Saale River Valley going south, including the main north-south artery, the Stadtrodaer Strasse (Highway B88), as well as parts of Burgau and Lobeda- both located in the South of Jena.
And this is where this pic comes in, to show how severe the flooding was during that time. This is one of the Alte Burgauer Brücke spanning the River Saale in the suburb of Burgau. The six-span stone arch bridge was built in 1546, was destroyed towards the end of World War II in 1945 and was left as bridge ruins during the East German era. It wasn’t until 1999 when reconstruction started and the bridge was restored in-kind to its original form. The bridge reopened in 2004 with a celebration and since then, only bikes and pedestrians are allowed to use the bridge. A book on the history and restoration of the bridge came out four years later.
For Jena, this was the first major flooding event since 1994, when the same area was completely under water. For me, as I have seen many floods, including the ones from 1993, the Red River of the North floods of 1997 and the one from 2002, this brought back memories, especially seeing places that are under water and watching the massive amounts of water flow downstream but not before taking out homes and businesses in the process. But more painful is the process of rebuilding and finding ways to avoid a repeat in the future. Especially in a densely populated Germany is this a problem because of the amount of red tape a person has to go through in order to have a permit to even rebuild what was lost.
Despite this typical German bureaucracy, one thing remained the same- that people worked together to keep the floodwaters out and also to rebuild. This sense of solidarity is something that is missing in today’s hectic society where every man is for himself, yet it’s part of the concept we all need to learn, regardless of circumstances- common sense. From my perspective it means the following:
Common sense is not just holding the door open for others to pass
It’s not just saying please and thank you
It’s not just wishing someone a nice day, regardless of who you meet.
Common sense is nothing more than empathy-
A process of understanding the person’s problems
A process of helping the person when it’s needed
A process where we treat everyone with respect and decency.
Without empathy we have no solidarity
We have no democracy
We have no system which makes things work
Regardless if it’s a state or a neighbor.
Empathy is everything.
My take on flooding and the sense of empathy, which is badly needed in light of what is happening.
Like the Great Flood of 2002, many bridges were damaged or destroyed. The hardest hit areas were the ones along the Zwickau Mulde River, where one in every five bridge was hit. This included the structure south of Glauchau in the village of Wernsdorf, which was built in 1953. After sustaining extensive damage, it was replaced in 2016 with the present-day structure, known by many today as “The Wave.” Information and photos of “The Wave” can be found in Glauchau’s Bridge Tour Guide, which you can click on the link below:
Link: The Bridges of Glauchau (Saxony), Germany