The Dutch People

An AP article on p. 2 of the Star Ledger on 2-17-03, describes a recent change in plans for the Dutch in managing the sea, 50 years after a “mighty North Sea storm smashed into the Netherlands with deadly devastation …” That would make it 1953 when 1800 people died after waves breached dikes and washed deep inland. This tragedy has since been known simply as “the flood.”

This is significant because about that time, my maternal grandfather, John Vander Heyden, sponsored two families from the Netherlands in their move the United States, and helped them settle in Milwaukee. They were distant relatives of his (and of course mine) who thence were called, “the Dutch people.” They lived temporarily in a vacant house on one of the properties my grandfather owned. He was a relatively wealthy man who founded Vander Heyden Corporation, which was a concrete block and building supply company in Milwaukee.

My family never got to know the Dutch people, but we did see them on rare occasions. My father described what it was like talking to them. You would say a few words, and then they would say something unintelligible, and after a pregnant pause, you would laugh and they would laugh, and that would be it. I don’t remember their names, only that they are relatives of mine who, until yesterday, were pretty much forgotten.

I was only 10 in 1953, and don’t recall ever hearing about “the flood” or whether it had anything to do with my grandfather’s decision to bring those families across the sea. I can’t even pinpoint it as that year, because I can’t relate it to any significant other event in my life. Yet, in reading about the Dutch flood and the great devastation it caused, I immediately thought of the Dutch families, and thought it highly probable that these events are related. I may research it further to confirm this connection. Who knows where it might lead?

Oh, the change in plans for the Dutch involves gradually replacing the dikes with sand dunes to tame the actions of the sea. They realize that continually raising the height of the dikes will eventually fail, and they must attempt to achieve their détente with the sea in more natural ways. They are doing this in response to global warming, which they believe will cause an inevitable 2-foot rise in sea level.

The article says the change in thinking for the Dutch came in 1987 when they completed a 2-mile-long removable dam across the East Scheide waterway. This latest conventional, dike-like project convinced many that laying dams in front of the coast should no longer be done. “We should build with nature,” says the head of the Dutch corp of water engineers.

DadConnections02/19/03 1 comments


Patrick • 02/19/03 2:09 PM:

I like this connection, and I like the category name. Connections like this happen all the time, but many of them are lost because we don’t have anyone to tell them to or a place to write them down. Sometimes a connections seems like it might be important, but we can’t find a use for it soon enough, so we forget it. Part of writing is collecting connections, or making interesting connections. Maybe connections that others haven’t made before, or have made but then lost, or wish they had made. For some reason, I’m thinking of Brian Doyle’s essay “Being Brians” which came from his work contacting all the Brian Doyles in the US (at least those listed in an Internet directory he found) and writing about those who wrote him back. I wish I had done that. And it was a more literal kind of connection as well as one made in the brain.

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