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

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  - Lori Robinson -

Iwas a senior at EFA, about to graduate, and June 23rd was to be our final day of school when we could say good-bye to teachers and fellow students, clean out our lockers, etc. We never got that chance and didn't have graduation until August. By then most of the graduates had jobs, were on vacation or simply didn't want to attend.

On the 22nd a friend and I drove down to Fitch's Bridge to see how deep the water was. We went out onto the bridge and the water was just below it. Not a good sign! We lived on Evergreen Ave in West Elmira, the lower end, and I remember moving furniture and other valuables upstairs just in case.

All day on the 23rd we watched the water come higher and higher up the street. We waded down to the lower end of the street and watched all the debris float by -- large trees, sheds, garages, dead cows.

We could hear all of that stuff hitting the old Rorick's Glen bridge and knew it wouldn't last long at all.

The flood water stopped in our front yard and we had three feet in our basement. My parents were so thankful. My father worked for Metropolitan Life Insurance on West Gray St (is it still there?) and that office had about five feet of water in it, totally ruined. I went down there to help him clean out his office the day after the flood. My mother worked at Deister and Butler Jewelry Store right on Main St across from Iszard's and that had substantial damage. The owner had moved all of the expensive jewelry out of the store the day before, but still had things down in the basement vault. My mother and her co-workers spent weeks cleaning all of that up.

I remember how downtown smelled in the days after the flood. A combination of dried mud, sewage and rotting clothes and shoes from all the stores down there.

We could only drive on certain streets in the weeks after the flood, National Guardsmen directed traffic. I remember people wearing face masks. Putting your damaged furniture, carpeting, clothing, etc in a huge pile in the street outside your house to be hauled off later. Much later. I think it was over a month before the bulldozers came down our street. My younger sister, just 14, volunteered to clean out people's basements. She'd come home and strip down to her underwear out in the back yard, then hose off her clothes. It was a terrible time for Elmira, but I think it brought us together as a community.