Community Mourns Together, Prepares to Recover Together
SHADYSIDE, Ohio (AP) _ After six days of cleaning up from flash floods, about 900 residents gathered beneath menacing skies to mourn 22 people killed in the flooding, which also left 11 people missing.
Townspeople sang hymns, said prayers and held each other close Wednesday during a 45-minute memorial service at their high school football field. Children cried aloud; adults wept quietly.
″Friends and neighbors, please don’t hush your babies. Let them cry, let them sing, let them play,″ Gov. Richard Celeste said.
″In these sometimes beautiful, sometimes hard hills along the Ohio River that we call home, be sure there is a special place in heaven for those family members we remember tonight,″ the governor said. ″But let us build a special place for those here who survive with pain. I love you. God bless you.″
Twenty-one uniformed members of the Shadyside Volunteer Fire Department, who have been searching for victims and clearing wreckage, received a standing ovation as they walked onto the field single file.
The Army Corps of Engineers today was to begin removing about 15 acres of flood debris from the Hannibal locks and dam, about 25 miles downstream from Shadyside.
The list of missing had dwindled to 11 - four local residents who coroner’s investigator Chuck Vogt said were likely dead and seven out-of-towners who would be harder to account for.
″It hurts us all. You got to remember, we’re a family here,″ Vogt said. ″We may not be a close one sometimes, but we are a family. And we’ll help each other and recover from this. In a few weeks, all these government agencies will be gone and we’ll be on our own again.″
In the stands, relatives of the dead sobbed as the Rev. Charles Brewer of First Presbyterian Church read a roster of those killed and missing.
Two roses rested on the pulpit - a red one for adults, a yellow one for children.
Janet Polivka, whose 13-year-old daughter, Kerri, died in the flood, held a woman seated beside her and wept bitterly as the crowd sang ″Amazing Grace.″
Vogt, a lifelong Shadyside resident who has worked 16- to 20-hour days since the night of the flood to help recover and identify bodies, stood alone behind reporters. He crouched at the edge of the field and fought back tears.
One hour before the service, Vogt identified the 22nd flood victim as Stephen Gatten, 9, who had lived along Wegee Creek. His body was found Wednesday in the Ohio River two miles downstream from the creek. Stephen’s brother also was killed in the flood, and their mother was among the missing.