I’ve heard a lot of comparisons being made to last week’s flooding here in the area to past devastating floods. And such comparisons are natural.
The scenes of destruction and devastation left behind in this latest example of the wrath of water upon our area have been terrible, to be sure.
I’ve heard people say “worse than the ‘77 flood” or “as bad as the ‘04 flooding”. And indeed, the destruction, while in differing communities in each of those floods and this last one, was significant in each one.
But one comparison I heard was not even close : “This is worse than the Buffalo Creek flood”.
Now, I hate to differ with folks, especially those who have suffered great loss, but in my memory, nothing other than 9/11 evokes memories of devastation, destruction and desolation as does the Buffalo Creek Flood of 1972.
My dad worked at the old Island Creek No. 4 Mines at Stow, W.Va., on Buffalo Creek at that time. It was about a 40-mile drive one -way and he and a fellow miner from our area, Dow Ooten Sr., often rode to work together.
At the end of their shift, my Dad and Mr. Ooten were asked to double back and work another shift. My dad declined because he wanted to be home for Sunday School that morning. So they came on home.
Then later, we heard the news of the Pittston Coal impoundment dam at the end of Buffalo Creek breaking and flooding the entire community. Reports slowly started to filter through of the total and utter destruction of nearly every home and structure up and down Buffalo Creek. Death counts kept changing as the worst nightmare any could imagine unfolded.
I remember a few days later driving through that area with my parents as I had several times before the flood. I remember the erie feeling of seeing everything being just...gone.
By the time all was accounted for, 125 were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. Five hundred and seven houses were destroyed, in addition to 44 mobile homes and 30 businesses.
I still have emblazoned in my memory as a young boy, the scene of a funeral of an entire family at our church where 5 black caskets were in front of the pulpit. Such scenes played out all over the area as the area collectively mourned
That’s the difference in Buffalo Creek and the recent floods. Not one death directly attributed to the flooding this time. After seeing the destruction in several areas, I’d say that was indeed a miracle. Certainly at least, a divine blessing.
The old hymn “My Heart Is a Chapel” says “When I count my blessings, I find them everywhere.” We can even find them in the midst of destruction.
That’s how I see if from the other side of the desk. See ya down the road.