« Continue Browsing

e-mail article Print     e-mail article E-mail

Forum Communications Co., Published April 14 2012

1997 Grand Forks flood memories

“In 1997, I was finishing up the seventh grade at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks. Along with many of the other kids in town, I was a frequenter of sandbag central. I remember being allowed out of school to help the effort. It made us feel like we were contributing and doing something good for the community. The morning we were evacuated, I woke up to a siren blaring and my mom shuffling around my room packing my clothes. We moved to Devils Lake temporarily with my grandparents and I attended school there. The kids were very nice to me and the others from Grand Forks who ended up there as well. Everyone felt so bad for the ‘refugees.’ The day we were allowed back, my parents went home to find almost everything destroyed. We had left before my parents had a to chance to move our stuff from the basement. Every toy, movie and porcelain doll I had ever collected floated lifelessly in the brown muck that was the river water. It was all destroyed. The New York Times came to our house and took pictures of my mom (Joan Glennen) and interviewed her while she was scrubbing out the basement and throwing out all of our toys on the driveway. She was on the front page. The flood ravaged Grand Forks but never have I remembered a time where we were more connected as a town. Everyone worked together to stop the flood and helped each other pick up and rebuild when it overpowered us. The 1997 flood made me very proud of the citizens of Grand Forks.”

Ashley Gunderson, Grand Forks

“The flood afforded the opportunity for a great sense of unity amongst the churches and our synagogue. It was a joy to be serving with fellow servants. The flood reminded me of what could not be washed away: joy, peace, family, love and my relationship with Christ. The flood reminded me of the fraility of my life and the powerful strength of my Lord; in the midst of recovery I found my need for Christ exemplified by the thinness of my soul. The flood reminded me that just because something looks good on the outside doesn’t mean it’s good on the inside. I find myself often thinking of how good and peaceful many of the homes looked from the outside, but I knew they were stripped of their power, furnaces, furnishings and filled with muddy crud. This is true of people, too. The outside doesn’t determine the reality.”

Paul Knight, Grand Forks

“I was 8 years old when the flood happened. My family and I lived two blocks away from the river and we were the last to leave because we didn’t want to leave our house. When we left it at 2 a.m. we could see the water coming down the road and the sirens roaring loudly, meaning only one thing – that the dike had broke. We stayed with other family members in Emerado (N.D.) in a trailer with 15 people and two dogs for nearly two months. After the water had gone down, my family went back to the house to see the damage. It missed our first floor by 2 inches and the basement was covered in dark mud and mess. We still live in the house now, but neighbors and houses have changed a lot.”

Kimberly Spivac, Grand Forks

“My husband and I were married April 19, 1997. We married at my parents house in Grand Forks as Holy Family Church was going under water. We are celebrating our 15th anniversary. We have two children, 14 and 12, and remain in Grand Forks.”

Jennie Sylvester, Grand Forks

“My heart was broken when Grand Forks was flooded in 1997 – many of my family members lost their homes. I consequently became inspired to write a poem that I felt would speak to the challenges that the people of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks would be facing, and would find a way to deal with - it was included in the Grand Forks Herald one-year anniversary publication. When the snows of a winter that buried the land were transformed into fluid by the sun, streams turned to rivers, and rivers to lakes with a vengeance that made the brave run. As Red Rivers that fork at a place called ‘The Point’ brought two towns that were Grand to their knees, the young and the old fled the watery giant with imprinted, profound memories. Though nature’s assault with its furious blows drove the residents out of their homes, a drive to return and reclaim what was lost, was a force in their souls and their bones. Mournful expressions and torrents of tears were the norm as the weeping wounds healed, replaced but so slowly by mouthings of hope and reprieves from fears deeply concealed. Ever true as an outcome of adversity, the affected will carry some scars, but they also have grown in faith and belief in the maker of far away stars. For dreams won’t be shattered by fate’s fickle touch or the future disturbed by the past, if a difficult life event helps us to learn the true value of things that will last.”

Wayne Allard, Fargo

“I was 7 years old and we had lived in our new house for about nine months. Our house is 10 miles east of Grafton and half a mile West of the Red River. At the time we did not have a dike around our house and the floodwaters were rising fast. My mom and dad enlisted the help of our extended family and friends to help start filling sand bags at my dad’s farm, which is 3 miles east of our house. They started filling sandbags in the shop and would bring them over to our house by the truckload. I remeber the huge line of people the sandbags would move down out the truck from person to person to person until they were at the spot where the next bag needed to be laid. It took what seemed like forever until we had a 5 foot wall, that I couldn’t see over from the inside, built up around the house in what we hoped would be our saving grace for our brand new house. The Red Cross came out to help feed our volunteers as they threw sandbag after sandbag along the assembly line. We had to borrow my uncle’s fishing boat to ride to our house while our cars were parked on Highway 17 so we could get to and from town. All the hard work and long hours paid off, that 5 foot wall of sandbags saved our house and I will always remember that spring. Now that we have a dike built up around our house the floods are still threatening, but not as scary as the flood of ’97, which threatened to destroy our home.”

Erin Osowski, Grafton