We are coming up on the 10-year anniversary of the Minton Hall flood of Nov. 30-Dec 1, 2008, and I wanted to share the impact that night has had on me.
It was a night almost every resident of Minton Hall at WKU in 2008 will remember.
I went with a friend, Nate Hovee, to get some late dinner. We all had just come back from Thanksgiving break, and I was dreading my calculus class at 8 a.m. the next morning. Nate and I went to Subway; it was in what is now known as Downing Student Union. We might have been gone 15 minutes. I was going to bring my sub to my room and work on some homework that I procrastinated on, for calculus, of course. But I could possibly get it done by 1 or 2 a.m., and sleep a little bit before my 8 a.m. class.
Plans change, right?
Nate and I came back in the lobby of the residence hall. Water was leaking, nay, gushing out of the ceiling, and the scene in the stairwell was reminiscent of that of a sinking Titanic. I still don’t know how, but on the fifth floor of Minton Hall, a pipe had busted right between the two bathrooms. And when it busted … it busted. Fifth floor had about an inch of standing water throughout most of the hall. The floors beneath were suffering from things as well. People were losing personal items due to water damage. Water continued to gush out of the stairwell onto the sidewalk outdoors. People were throwing water out the windows. I would say 85-90 percent of residents in Minton Hall were pitching in to help the cleanup. People pitched in their towels, garbage cans and who knows what else to ensure the fastest cleanup possible.
Eventually, the water was shut off, the cleanup was as good as it was going to get, and it was time to finally settle down, eat that sub and do some calculus homework. Thanks to these events which went on for hours, it was going to be an all-nighter. I was tired. A tired mind does not want to do calculus.
Then, it was 4 a.m. I was really feeling the effects of my physical and mental exhaustion. So, I had a couple of Monster energy drinks stashed for moments like these … I went into my dark room, and quietly reached into my fridge, grabbed the drink, and shut the fridge. I got to the middle of the room.
I screamed, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!” My poor roommate, Clint Waters, was probably more startled by my shouting than the fire alarm. I’ve never been shot, but I think I knew what it felt like that night. I have never been more startled, more afraid, more scared out of my skin, than what I was at this exact moment the fire alarm went off.
I went to class. Apparently, the fire alarm went off again while I was away at classes. I don’t remember much about the rest of that semester other than I slept very, very little for the next two weeks because I was afraid the fire alarm was going to go off again. I snapped at my best friend, who later accepted my apology. I was an absolute mess, and I knew I needed to do something. I went to our student counseling service on campus.
I talked with the counselor. I remember telling him this: I told him what happened with the flood, and my history with fire alarms. I had been trying to watch fire alarm videos because I knew I needed to desensitize myself to them. I knew I had a phobia going on along with maybe a tinge of PTSD. He was impressed. He said the only other thing to suggest would be to pull a pull station, but that wasn’t a legal solution. He was wondering if I was a psychology student, and I said I was considering it. I don’t remember his name, but I remember that conversation catalyzing something in my brain. Through busted pipes and fire alarms, I knew I wanted to study psychology.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a career. I liked psychology, but I didn’t know if I wanted to go into counseling. All the sacrifices my mom and my late dad made seemed to be for nothing, because I pretty much chose to not further pursue psychology. I went back home and got involved with my church.
I knew I needed a job, and the little money I was receiving from my church as well as my friends in the church who had a band that traveled some was not sustaining me. I needed a job, and a newer man who was coming to the church, Ray, was very helpful and open to hearing me out. I told him I wanted a job in office administration. Looking back, that was kind of random, but, that’s what I wanted. Next thing I knew, he interviewed me, I butchered it, and he wanted me to work for his company! He said, “Wear a tie.”
What was the job? Human resources associate. What did that mean? Heck if I knew. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what human resources was at the time because I had never had a job, because I was so focused on studying, and didn’t really study business. I had a lot to learn.
What did I do? Write policies and procedures. I didn’t know what I was doing! But everyone seemed impressed by my work. Ray saw potential in me. That was the best job, and the most fun job, of any that I have had since. I guess your first time leaves an impression? That job was far from perfect, considering the owner of the company (NOT Ray) is now in jail because of tax evasion (yikes!), but it was still a very fun job. I was able to travel. I sat in on interviews (Ray conducted them, because it was a small company), and I learned the ins and outs of business. Not everything, but the general practice. After I left that company and had to take on less prestigious jobs, I still miss what I used to do.
It is time to use that degree I had. I used it to get into graduate school, and I will be studying industrial organizational psychology at Eastern Kentucky University’s online program. I missed my human resources job so much, I decided I wanted to pursue it as a career. And after my years of debating and soul-searching, I decided I needed to pick something and go all-out. That is what I plan to do. I know I have barely skimmed the surface of what it means to be in HR, and I hope to be able to learn the job soon enough, get my degree, and get PHR Certified.
All of this was made possible because of a busted pipe and a fire alarm. Thanks, Minton Hall 2008. Go Tops!
Story submitted by WKU alum Kevin Harper of Science Hill, KY.