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Sandbagging helps the lost find nobility, a buddy

In the past, I've done hard physical labor for one of two reasons: I was out of money and willing to perform such odd jobs as roof-raking and mowing the lawn -- despite my pleas that it would just grow back in two weeks -- for my neighbor; or my dad happened to feel like watching me suffer.

Last week, though, when I sandbagged with my school in response to the flooding in Fargo-Moorhead, I felt like I was fighting for a more noble cause than my date fund (which, sad to say, has never been drawn from).

The mental image of people's houses being saved by sandbags made by my hands gave me the necessary impetus to work harder than I'd ever worked before -- and for two days in a row. Besides, I felt like I had a moral obligation to redeem myself in the eyes of my classmates from a small incident which took place on Day One. . .

The volunteers from DL High School, myself included, were signing up at the "registration station" before getting back on the school bus and heading off to the actual sandbagging site where we were to spend the day, which was across town. Somehow, I went out the wrong exit (or something like that) and ended up on a metro transit bus.

The fact that I didn't recognize a single person on the bus I was riding on made me a little concerned, but figured that, since all the buses were going to the same destination, it really didn't matter which one I took. Unfortunately, that was where I was sadly mistaken.

The blue transit bus arrived at a housing development in a distant corner of Moorhead (actually, it could have been Glyndon for all I know) while the yellow school bus I somehow missed was destined for a sand-bagging operation on the other side of town.

About midway through my bus trip I got a call on my cell phone. It was another volunteer in my group, and he wanted to know why I wasn't on the group bus. I had to direct the group bus to 40th and 2nd, where I stood waiting.

When I finally boarded the bus, everyone cheered, the principal said he wouldn't even ask and I spent the rest of that day and the next following the Buddy System.

Other than that, everything went very smoothly.

Coming from the structured environment of public school, I expected to be given a job according to my abilities and expected to perform that task until I was redirected. It wasn't like that at all, however. There are essentially about six operations to making and loading sandbags. We were allowed to choose our own job based on what needed to be done at the time and where we happened to be in the masses of people, sand, multicolored bags, and twisting tools. It was amazing to me how effective the system, or lack thereof, seemed to work.

I kept looking over at the piles of filled sandbags, watching them multiply like rats in the city. I kept waiting for someone with control issues to emerge and whip us into shape, intending to make us more efficient, but luckily, that didn't have to happen.

I'm only 16 years and I've already lived through two 100-year floods. Hopefully, this area does not have to experience another one for at least another 100 years.

Nathan Kitzmann is a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School.