Jutta Schelleckes on July 17th in her apartment: "What should I cry, howling is no use"
Thomas Lohnes / Getty Images
On Wednesday evening, Jutta Schelleckes is sitting in a dry armchair in a retirement home.
That is not a matter of course, she says.
The new resident of a senior citizens' residence in Mogendorf near Bonn is 72 years old.
She wears fine, gold-rimmed glasses.
She didn't have much more left.
The water of the Ahr has washed away almost everything.
The white T-shirt with a palm tree motif on it, the blue trousers - she received them in an emergency shelter.
For three nights and two days, Jutta Schelleckes lived in her devastated apartment in her wet clothes.
Without electricity and water.
"Because everything was wet anyway, we ran barefoot," she says.
It was there that a photographer finally took this picture, which SPIEGEL selected for its current cover.
It shows the horror of this flood, which not only hit the Ahr valley.
It shows Jutta Schelleckes.
Who is this woman?
The residents of the retirement home watch a report on the flood disaster in Bad Neuenahr on the television in the living room.
Schelleckes nods when a voice from the off speaks about the devastation on site.
There, in the middle of the flooded area, the pensioner lived in a stylishly furnished ground floor apartment with her husband Ulrich, 73, and the mixed terrier "Urmel".
You would have felt very comfortable there, says Schelleckes, who used to work as a broker.
Until the night of July 14th to 15th, when the Ahr, which otherwise flows so peacefully through the valley, turned into a torrent that carried everything with it.
"I never thought that water could do something like that."
As she says this, she seems composed.
“What am I supposed to cry,” she says, “howling is no use.
It doesn't get any better. ”Her husband, who worked as an investment advisor, also got over the nightmare of the last week well.
"This is a stubborn person from the Lower Rhine, nothing knocks him over so quickly," says Schelleckes and smiles tentatively again.
At first, the two were still in good spirits.
After all, her apartment was not in the front row on the Ahr.
It seemed unlikely that the brown broth would really get to them in the living room.
"My husband watched the water slowly rise from the window," says Schelleckes.
"It rose and went on and on."
At around 10.30 p.m., her husband knocked across the street from the neighbors to warn them.
Schelleckes: "The water was already running into our rooms." The level should climb up to 1.70 meters.
Then they all went up to the first floor together.
The Schnelleckes, the neighbors of opposite and »Urmel«.
When the water levels dropped again around midnight, Jutta Schelleckes went back down to her own apartment with her husband and the dog, as she says.
“Because there was still water in the apartment downstairs, we took off our shoes and went barefoot.
All the furniture was floating.
Only the sofa was still working to some extent.
We spent the first night there in the dark. ”When she says that, Schelleckes has to swallow.
It wasn't until the morning after that she saw the chaos in her apartment.
The beautiful furniture made of olive wood, the 400-year-old cabinet made of bog oak, the two refrigerators - everything was overturned.
There was even mud in the kitchen overhead cabinets.
The clothes, the papers and documents, "everything is soaking wet." No electricity, no water.
The Schelleckes sat in their musty, lazy apartment.
Why didn't she leave the apartment?
“We didn't know where to go.
I still have a stepbrother in Berlin, but that was too far. "
Chaos reigned in the city's devastated flood zone on Thursday after the flood.
The fire brigade and rescue workers had to save lives, rescue the dead, and pump out apartments.
Schelleckes didn't feel so bad that they called 911.
That wouldn't have worked either.
Because the elderly woman's cell phone had gotten wet and had failed to work.
Neighbors brought them something to eat and drink.
They settled down on the damp furniture that stood all over the place in their apartment - as far as they could.
Another night in the dark followed, in an apartment behind broken window panes, and another day.
Nobody noticed that the Schelleckes were still crouching in their apartment on Friday and no one came to take them out.
Everyone in Casinostrasse had their own disaster to deal with.
Her husband came to the hospital
At some point, she reports, helpers came into the apartment and wanted to move the old furniture onto the street.
She protested, says Schelleckes.
“The old oak cabinet saw the Thirty Years' War.
This is an heirloom I really want to keep. ”The helpers left again.
On Saturday morning a photographer happened to come by and took the photo that shows Jutta Schelleckes on the sofa.
She was separated from her husband that same day.
On Saturday, helpers from the fire brigade and the Red Cross came by.
Jutta Schelleckes was first taken to an emergency room, then to the senior citizens' residence.
Her husband, on the other hand, had come to the hospital: "He stepped barefoot into a piece of glass and had to undergo an operation."
She is not the only victim that has been brought here to Mogendorf.
The legs have now healed well, says Schelleckes, pointing to the bandage that is changed every day.
She had slipped on the slippery stairs.
The visible traces of the disaster are slowly healing.
Jutta Schelleckes says she is worried about the beautiful furniture and the china, "all old heirlooms".
She wants to take care of that when this is all over.
She would love to return to the rented apartment in Bad Neuenahr with her husband.
Is that possible?
"I don't know," says Schelleckes.
At this moment she loses her composure for a moment and looks sadly at her hands.
"First Corona and then that," she says, "nobody needs that." Most of all, she misses her husband.
He will soon be released from the hospital.
Then she shows the note with the address of the host family where her dog is staying.
“Urmel should definitely come back to us.” Then she smiles.