August 9, 2009...Two Years Ago

A community that creatively plans together, jointly works together, joyously celebrates together, and even sadly mourns together... when times are hard... will untiringly stand together. Such is the case of a small valiantly vibrant community in Western New York.

It was a clear bright afternoon in Gowanda, NY and the warm rays of the sun shown brightly on the hills, and in the valleys and nearby communities surrounding this beautiful and bountiful location. It was Sunday, August 9, 2009. The people here are resourceful, resilient, and thoughtful folks. They have a love for the natural surroundings and a passion for their neighbors, and for the folks who visit and travel this picturesque area. Little did the people know how their lives would be impacted by the next 12 hours of turbulence in the weather. But, the people remember and will not forget.

At dusk, the sun went down behind a dark almost "boiling-like" cloud in the western sky. All around, the landscape was silent, still, and almost unnerving. And then, nearing 10:00 PM, the stillness was uncapped with the quick rustling of the winds and the silence was broken by the far off rumble of distant roaring thunder. Unknown to most of the folks at the time, two gigantic storms over northwestern Cattaraugus, southern Erie, and northern Chautauqua counties formed a gigantic monster of a storm.

Streaks of flashing lighting could be detected in the southwestern sky. The quickened pace of the approaching electrical storm hit the area with a vengeance. Sheets of drenching rains became rivers of devastation, large trees bent with the powerful winds of destruction, and non-stop flashed lighting streaks were accompanied with gargantuan thundering reverberations! There was little time for storm preparation and not much could be done to deter the catastrophic onslaught of destruction. The storm hit suddenly and was unabated for three continuous hours. A deluge of rain flooded the community with torrents of raging water. Sadly during the storm, two precious lives were lost in the flood. In the days that followed, the community was in shock and mourned together.

On Monday morning at first light, the realization of the vast destruction began to be realized by a traumatized and stunned community. People quickly became aware of the unbelievable degree of ravaged devastation that was left in the wake of the nearly 7 inches of rain that fell in a three-hour span. I, along with my wife and neighbors, still feel the pangs of stress as I put these words in print.

The peril of material loss for some victims was horrendous. A substantial number of area structures were badly damaged: homes were flooded, churches and public building were seriously damaged, merchandise and equipment in stores and businesses was destroyed, and Tri-County Hospital and attached Medical Building was permanently devastated. Many streets, roads, and viaducts were washed out. Structural devastation, mud, silt and debris seemed to be everywhere.

For many of the victims, the days which followed the flood events, seemed to be one long dark and never ending day...with no sun rise and no sunset. Many of us knew firsthand, what it was to be the recipient of outpouring giving people. People from far and wide, men, women, children, and youth, from all creeds, races, and backgrounds, came and pitched in and offered assistance. They brought food for the hungry, encouragement for the tired, an ambitious arm and shoulder for the exhausted, and emotional support for the needy. They came with genuine warmth and humble hearts, wrapped in a friendly smile and an encouraging reassuring word.

The peril of the loss for some victims was very great. Some of our neighbors experienced a loss that can never be fully recouped. But, on the brighter side, there was a wonderful burst of realization of richness which, in some ways, even exceeds the peril of the losses. We saw a zest of genuineness and a treasury of neighborliness, a spirit of cooperativeness and helpfulness, and genuine warmth of the true nature of that which makes our Country so very exceptional. For you see, a community and its neighbors that works together, celebrates together, and morns together... WILL UNTIRINGLY STAND together. ...And we will not forget!