A Week Later
In one weekâ€™s time, this relatively small community has recovered, partially at least, from this great tragedy. The stories of help and heroism may never be completely told. The stories of hardship and heartache to many families may continue for years to come.
One thing survived the flood and has emerged as a great bulwark of strength to everyone who has been a part of this experience. That is the faith and courage of the students, faculty, staff and families of the Toccoa Falls School. Wherever one has had contact with these devout people one has not heard a word of judgment or condemnation of God or man. We have witnessed many expressions of faith in the will and purpose of the Almighty. We have heard nothing but the confidence and love expressed for the administration of the school. Everyone has been filled with a deep sense of gratitude for those who poured their lives and their resources into this community at a time of great need.
This writer can only join with the folks at Toccoa Falls in saying, Thanks be to God for His unsearchable wisdom and for His ways that are past finding out. (â€œSounds of the Times with Samuel M. Inman.â€ The Toccoa Record, Thursday, November 17, 1977.)
A Year Later
None of us here at Toccoa Falls College will ever be able to forget the havoc and loss of November 6, 1977. Nor will we be able to forget the way in which people pitched in to help. We have no idea how many people helped, but we do know that hundreds of volunteers worked rescuing the injured and recovering the bodies. Many more helped clear the rubble. More than 1,700 churches, 5,000 individuals, 90 colleges, and hundreds of manufacturers and merchants sent help. Fifty private and public agencies worked around the clock in the recovery. (â€œA Cup of Cold Water,â€ by Dr. James Grant. TFC Today, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1978.)
In the emotional vacuum of a disasterâ€™s aftermath, the â€œwhy?â€ questions begin to loom larger than life and death.
By the time I visited Toccoa Falls, the survivors I talked to had pushed the â€œwhyâ€ questions to the back of their minds. Instead of struggling for explanations they were reflecting on lessons they had learned, focusing on results instead of cause. â€œâ€¦The flood made me realize the importance of living each day for God. And my level of relationship with him has deepened in the past months because of that,â€ [Greg Bandy remembers].
Every Toccoa Falls student I asked, even those who sat out the flood in the safety of a dry campus building, said one of the most important things they had gained from the flood was â€œa new appreciation for life.â€
But it was the victims who faced death themselves, whose families perished in the flood, who evidenced the strongest faith in God and his dependability. Instead of bitterness and despair, they spoke with conviction about their confidence and trust in God.
â€œI know the Lord gave me incredible strength in the week after the flood,â€ [said Bob Harner]. â€œI stood by my wifeâ€™s and sonâ€™s caskets as 400 people filed by. Many of them were weeping and God gave me the strength to comfort and encourage them.
â€œIâ€™m not saying that I didnâ€™tâ€™ have grief or didnâ€™t cry. I did. And some days still seem painfully emptyâ€¦.But Iâ€™ve learned that God will give me the strength and peace when I need it most. And each day gets a little easier.â€
The fresh growth of spring has covered many of the scars. The rubble has been cleared. Life in the little valley town goes on like it always did. But if you visit Toccoa Falls today and talk to students and townspeople, you too will find an inspiring confidence in Godâ€”a faith that has been tempered by tragedy.
As one survivor explained, â€œWe know that God was with us through the flood. He was with those of us who escaped. He was with the 39 people who died. Because of the flood we know that God will be with us through anything we ever have to face.â€ (â€œThe Night the Dam Broke,â€ by Gregg Lewis. Campus Life, June/July 1978.)
|Section 2, Afterwards
|Section 4, Timeline