Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the flood of 1994. Time flies when you’re having fun they say and the older I get the faster it seems to fly. Not sure some days that I’m having all that much either!
We were in Hawkinsville during the flood of 1994. I was the editor-in-chief and chief cook and bottle washer at The Hawkinsville Dispatch. Hawkinsville was like most all small towns where everyone knows your business before you do and if they don’t they make it up along the way. I love small towns but that is pretty much the truth about them.
But the great thing about small towns is how everyone comes together when there’s an emergency or a tragedy such as the flood. It’s simply amazing and the flood of 1994 was like that with everyone in the community pulling together.
People lost houses to floods and had some even had to be rescued from their homes along the river. After the water subsided, people pitched in to help those folks with the aftermath as well as things in the town as well.
Chuck Southerland, who ran the paper, decided we needed to do a special edition for the flood, after we already put out our weekly paper. I had already been taking plenty of photos as had he but he wanted to do more.
Toward that effort, I climbed to the top of the highest building which at that time as Leshner Textile. Water was already over the roadway of the bridge by that time and creeping toward the streets of the downtown. With that accomplished, Georgia Power offered to fly us up in a helicopter so we could get better shots along the river. It was my first and so far my last helicopter ride. I was about to get in a boat to go down the river but Chuck did that and boy was I glad because the mosquitoes along the river had all but carried me away already.
I did find myself standing in ankle deep water at the cemetery taking photos of caskets floating down the river. It was kind of surreal and I wondered if they would ever find them all and return them to their respective resting places.
When I got back to the office after all of that a policeman came in the office looking for me. Since I had been standing in the water at the cemetery, a tetanus shot was required and they wanted to make sure I got mine. I rode with him to the health department to get the shot.
The rising waters came within a half mile of our house in Hawkinsville. We were without water for 16 days and some for much longer. Electricity was only off for a few days. We decided to take a few days off after that, and get some rest and relaxation off at the beach. My family was not too happy I had flown around town in the helicopter so they were anxious to get out of town before their mother decided to do something even crazier in the quest to cover the flood. Seems in those days, I had no fear. Twenty-five years later I don’t think I would do some of those things, even to get the news story. Then I never once thought about any danger or that perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this.
When leaving you had to figure out different ways to get out of town as many roads were flooded as well.
As time passed everyone put their lives back together and went back to their regular routines. It was a topic of conversation for many months to come though.
Somewhere in a box in the attic, I still have a copy of that “Flood edition” and some photos. Someone borrowed some of my photos to use in a magazine and I don’t think I ever got them back. The magazine is no longer in print so no hope of ever recovering them.
Photos were one thing people lost that many times can’t be replaced. But as one woman who lived along the river noted, you can never erase the photo from your memory bank and at least she had her life. It was the right attitude in a bad situation.
The right attitude makes all the difference in world in all situations.
I thought about trying to ride around Macon for photos but my family didn’t think it was such a good idea and most of the roads were flooded. They had it worse than most in Hawkinsville I think. But again, I’ve heard many stories of people stepping up and helping out.
Since I was not in Roberta at that time, I don’t know what transpired here or how bad it got during the flood. But I’m sure people were helping other people.
It’s sad in a way that it takes a flood or other catastrophe for everyone to pull together for the good of the whole. But that’s the way it is these days.
In reality, we should be doing what we can every day to help our communities and our fellow humans. It’s what God wants us to do. ©2019
VICTORIA SIMMONS Is a columnist, author, motivational speaker, minister and publisher of The Georgia Post/Byron Buzz. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org