Riding the Waves – One Year Later


There are a multitude of thoughts that come to mind when inhabitants of our area reminisce about the Great Flood of 2016 that transpired one year ago this afternoon. For some folks, the event is a representation of nostalgia, for they ache to revisit the time in their life before the event caused great change. For others, the storm sparks a feeling of fear and anxiety that returns with the occasional realization that something with such abhorrent power could cause such a ferocious quantity of damage, both internally and externally in such little time, with no control of its chaotic force. Some might crack a smile that an event of this magnitude caused a community of people from across the Mountain State to help out those in need; to rise as a group instead of singularly. And on the opposite side of the spectrum, some may experience anger, formulated from a sense of losing property and items in a matter of minutes that took decades to obtain. For some, these feelings coalesce together, and yet others feel feelings that are far different than the narrow selection I have described above.

The office of Fitzweather from the creation in 2011 until June 2016.

I remember my experiences during the event as I was climbing up to higher ground with my family. People, including myself, have heard before to seek higher ground during a flash flood, though many have not literally performed the task as my family and I did. In the midst of a serious situation, there are oftentimes a potpourri of thoughts racing in the mind. Strangely, I can recall many of them as we lay soaked on the steep hillside of a narrow valley, watching the plethora of debris and livelihood flow down the drain of tributaries inevitably to larger bodies of water.

No matter what the feeling, the one thing that people have in common in our area in relation to the flood is that we have feelings about it. Those on the inside that lost everything as well as those not affected living nearby all have a perspective and an understanding that is completely unique and not experienced by anyone else. Though some experiences may be similar, everyone was thinking something different and witnessing through a unique lens in the midst of the catastrophe that was taking place.

Some friends of mine hold the flood to such a high degree of merit, they use it as a placeholder in their lives similar to what is seen in Christianity: ‘Before the Flood’ and ‘After the Flood’. Though some may scoff or joke at the concept for its unparalleled analogy to religion, for countless people, there was a different lifestyle lived before the storm took place, and a new lifestyle that was embarked proceeding it.

Despite the division of time in this example that was created by the event, one thing is for certain: time is both fluid and continuous. Whether a decision has been made to alter a lifestyle as a result of the event is a decision that is conducted internally. The silhouettes that are changed as a result of a natural disaster, or any other disaster, are both finite and not a living component of us. For those less fortunate that lost living components, the altering lifestyle is a little less independent of our internal functions.

Despite the thousands of homes and millions of unique silhouettes that were altered as a result of the storm, the internal gears of our mind allow us to have the opportunity to embrace the change, even if it is not something we desire. Another day will be provided, which is an opportunity to become better than the previous day. Many folks deal with situations on a daily basis that are not desired to be experienced, and the Great Flood of 2016 was no different, other than the magnitude and the scope of area that the event affected.

When the mind is opened and we allow ourselves to both hear the thousands of unique sounds and perspectives, and witness the thousands of sites that were seen by the people of West Virginia on June 23rd, we can allow ourselves to understand the event as it is, an experience that was not desired, but caused a change. But the silent beauty of the flood is that in the midst of the significant change, it is still up to ourselves on how to react to the change, whether to ride the waves of the water to a new shoreline, or to sink ourselves into the depths of memories that the water soaked.

For me, it was not until August of last year that my mind was opened. I took a photo of an overlook in southern Virginia, and sat for several moments, gazing out miles in front of me at the vast, open landscape. And at that moment, I realized that no matter the event that occurred in both my life and other’s lives, that view that I was gazing upon was not going to change. Its components might – the hued green tree colors, the tree leaves sprouting and dying, the clouds billowing above, the thunderstorms rumbling to the valley below, the snow blowing, and the flora, fauna, and fowl – they could all change, but the view will not. The same consensus can be said for myself and the thousands that were impacted by the event. Components might change – where they live, what they live in, who they know, their socioeconomic status etc. – but an event such as the flood is not going to change them, just like the view I saw that afternoon.

The author is often perplexed and awed by what could lie on the other side of this valley, which he carries with him frequently to continue to be inspired by what lies ahead in life, instead of what has already occurred. (Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. The photo was taken by the author on August 19th, 2016, less than two months after the flood).

Local Photos and Information Requested for Upcoming Project


June 29th, 2017 will mark the five year anniversary of the Great June 29th Derecho. This storm at one point put 90% of West Virginia’s population out of power. For some, power would not return for two weeks amid 90+ degree weather.

This is planned to be a detailed tribute, and I would like to add some photos that viewers took of the event. The tribute will be published here on June 29th.

If you have any photos you would be willing to share, please send them to joseph.fitzwater358@gmail.com. I have no problems at all giving you credit for any photo you’re willing to share.

Courtesy of the Clay Communicator