[elmira-ny.com] - Keeping memories alive...photo courtesy of Tom Drum...

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  - Carol Sondersted DeBaets -

We lived on Harmon Street at the dike with five children. It was late at night when a friend called and suggested we leave, the water had gone over the dikes in Corning, Elmira was next.

We had a camper, and it was ready to go on vacation, so hooked it to the car, piled the children and dog in, but where to go? A "haven" came to mind, Sullivan's Monument. We had to cross the river twice, once on Main Street bridge, then again on Water Street bridge.

We stopped (briefly) on 17 near the old animal shelter, the water was over the road. We decided to "go for it" and thankfully it wasn't that deep. We finally got to the monument, set up the camper, telling the children it was just an "adventure" we would be home in the morning.

Well, it was the middle of August before we could go home. Do you know we where the only ones to go to the monument?

The state opened a cabin for us to stay in and the workers where marvelous to us. A daughter was ill and one worker went to Ithaca to get some meds for her. Another daughter had a birthday and they brought a pizza pie to her. They taught the children about the raising and lowering of the flag, and soon it was my children raising and lowering the flag. The workers did everything they could to ease the burden by showing the children so much care. When it came time to leave, everyone was sad. In the midst of all the turmoil, these people stand out as true "heroes."

Another memory; as we where trying to save what we could, every lunch time the Salvation Army truck would stop and wait for us. Hot tomato soup, cheese sandwich and orange "pop." I shall never forget that helping hand. The children, to this day won't eat tomato soup, cheese sandwiches or drink orange "pop." It brings back "painful" memories.

While there are many "painful memories: The red ball express, the mud, the loss of so many pictures, the horrible "smells", the devastation, the flood brought some good memories too. Not only the men of the "monument", but many new friends, many "old friends" came to our assistance, a new appreciation for "a helping hand" and the most poignant memory of all.

My father had traveled the world over. While he never lived in Elmira, he visited us often. One visit we went to the monument. Dad was quiet as he looked over the valley. I saw tears running down his cheek as he said "This is the most beautiful spot I have ever seen." The beauty of the Chemung Valley will always remain etched in my mind, these many years later.