Remembering The Flood of 1972
Next week, it will be the 48th anniversary. The date was June 23rd, 1972, and I had just completed my junior year at Corning Painted Post West High School. I was ready for a great summer before heading to my final year in high school. Who knew it would become a summer like no other.
I lived with my parents and siblings just south of Monterey, New York, a small community about 17 miles northwest of Corning, New York. We've dealt with spring flooding many times in the past, but nothing compared with what we were about to experience.
Tropical storm Agnes had reached the northeastern part of the country and we were right in it's path. In what seemed like endless rain, the storm raised the levels of the river so much that it spilled over it's banks and badly flooded Corning, Painted Post, Elmira and all points in between that centered around the river
The destruction was massive. Fortunately for us, even though the creek near us overflowed, it only resulted in a flooded basement. We did lose our furnace, water heater , washer, dryer and everything stored away, but many families lost much more, including 18 people who lost their lives in the flood.
I remember the aftermath of destruction. A railroad bridge containing a line of coal cars, collapsed into the river. So many homes and businesses were knocked off their foundation or completely destroyed. The front of the McDonald's collapsed on itself.
A couple of weeks later, Corning Glass Works (now known as Corning, Incorporated) organized a workforce called 'YES' which stood for 'Youth Emergency Services.' It was designed to employ young people like myself to roll up our sleeves and help clean residential homes and businesses.
It was a hard job and the smells of mud and rotting food was something no one should ever have to work through, but we felt good knowing we were helping our community get back on their feet. At just the young age of 17, I eventually became a crew manager. Not sure how that happened, but I had a great crew to work with throughout the summer. It was an experience I will never forget, even 48 years later.