Two years ago about this time we were privately celebrating that we had survived the June 2006 floods that devastated New York’s Central Southern Tier and Northern Central Pennsylvania. We were extremely lucky in our little village in that most of the damage to our homes was limited to a soggy, stinky landscape and some very high water in our basements. But some families down closer to the river took the full brunt of the water, and other local towns, such as Sidney below us and Otego above us, were battered very badly. Some families lost their homes but in our village all of our homes stood firm and are once again dry.
It has bothered me more this year at flood anniversary time than it did last on the one year anniversary date – who knows why. The river is low this year and rainfall is normal, but I am thinking back more now than I did then.
I remember coming back to our home after almost 3 days in an emergency shelter at our local high school with dozens of others who had fled the rising river waters. We knew from news that had been brought to us at the shelter by our tireless local volunteer fire department members that our house was fine and that we probably did not have water into the first floor. We also knew that the electric had somehow stayed on under the deep water and the electric candles in the windows of our home-safe-home had stayed on the whole time – giving hope to all who passed in large trucks or boats over those long three days.
The water fell even faster than it rose, but nothing could have prepared us for what we came home to - the smell of the flood mud – the FLUDGE as we still call it in our parts. Sometimes I can still get a faint whiff of it when a gentle rain first begins to fall on an early summer evening.
Our hearts go out to those who now have had to come home – or to what may be left it – out in the Midwest. There are no words that can fully describe it. It is only time and the perseverance of the people and their communities that can heal the scars.
Tonight we celebrated as a community once again in our little village with a community picnic and summer concert – The flood was not the topic this year – the high fuel prices were. But, looking around at all of the familiar faces there tapping their feet to the music, I know that the flood of June 2006 will never be forgotten in our Village Beautiful – It may be on our tongues, but it stays on our minds.