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Pittsburgh is #WVStrong- Our Flood Relief Efforts

July 18, 2016

On July 3,wvstrong 2016,  while at mass with my mom in Weirton, WV at St. Paul’s Parish, in lieu of homily, priest played a slideshow of the flood devastation in WV that took place in the early hours of June 23, 2016, wreaking havoc, destroying 1,200 homes and taking at least 23 lives.  Our priest gave no introduction and no commentary after. He let the pictures speak for themselves.

I am haunted daily by what I saw. There was an instrumental version of country roads playing in the background. Slow. Lilting.

My own Weirton WV childhood home flooded in 2004 on my 30th bday. Having been in their beloved home 40+ years, my dad and mom refused to vacate. I had just moved back home from Philly and I was living with my parents at the time. The day before I had just broken my Achilles‘ tendon, it had not yet been repaired and I was on crutches. The foot was fully not functional since Tendon snapped entirely.

          Hurricane Ivan. A dam had broken and our whole Cove valley flooded. Many neighbors escaped in boats but we stayed. The water from Kings Creek across from my house flooded it’s banks and turned angry and violent and raging like a river.

           The creek is my favorite part of home. What was always a source of fun and beauty and tranquility was betraying us. I remember j just couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked out our front window. The water kept coming closer and Closer to our house. I made panic calls to 911. I couldn’t get through. I kept calling my brother and sister. My brothers house flooded too. Fortunately the water and mud only reached our basement and first level. Water backed up via sewer drain in basement and started coming in that way too. I had never before feared for my life like that.

        The cleanup took weeks and I couldn’t help at all because of my cast. Dad was 74 at the time. I remember dad and mom putting sandbags in Front of the house. I kept hollering for them to come in. That the water was getting closer.

         For weeks, they both worked tirelessly with volunteers to get the mud out and I remember all the bleach. I remember FEMA coming and sucking out the mud with a vacuum. Access and egress out of the valley was limited because the windy roads and hillsides were washed out. I felt trapped. I will never forget seeing washed up vehicles in the creek bed. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach for weeks there after every time it rained.

          I guess this is why collecting  ‪#‎wvflood‬ relief items really means a lot to me. I cannot compare what happened to us to what happened down state. But, I can relate somewhat and I am really grateful for everyone who has donated. The pictures of the displaced older people really got to me.

         A large group of Mt Lebanon residents who are native West Virginians organized an effort to collect needed items.  I felt privileged to be a part of the efforts.   The Wilcox family rented a 15 foot UHAUL which we filled.  They drove the truck down to the flood distribution center in Charleston, WV.   My Rotary group donated $1,000.  Donations keep pouring in.  The Mt. Lebanon Library collected a pick up truck full of items.

       Starting July 21, 2016, I will be spending three days in Charleston, WV working on “MUDOUTS”, cleaning out houses.  I will report back.


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