To Learn and Remember-The Flood of ’72

When I wrote my first book it had a definite historic aspect and I used little flashbacks to show that part. So, when one book became two and the dream of a series became a reality I decided to continue that pattern. I know flashbacks aren’t necessarily the rage; not even really encouraged. But, I don’t always aspire to do it the “normal way” do I? For the flashback scenes in my latest mystery—The Double Cousins and the Mystery of the Rushmore Treasure—I chose the Flood of 1972.

This is the portion of author’s notes from the book that relates to the Rapid City flood.

On June 9, 1972, a flood tore through Rapid City, SD and 238 people lost their lives. My first memory of the 1972 flood was when my daddy got up in church one Sunday and asked the people to pray for a Pastor Onstott and the people of Rapid City. I was ten. He explained that there had been a bad flood in Rapid City, and many people died. At the time, we lived in Nebraska and I had never been to South Dakota. Little did I know that two years later Pastor Onstott would become my step-grandpa and our lives would be forever connected with Rapid City.

Over the years my family has migrated to the Rapid City area, and I lived there for ten years. During all of those years I heard many times of the “Flood of 72.” The park system that runs through town is a constant reminder of that day. Every year it is remembered and in 2012 they had many special events memorializing the lives that were lost. I had seen news clips, first person accounts, and even read part of a book. But, when I began doing research for this book I gained a new appreciation—or maybe horror would be a better word—for the events of that night in June of 1972.

The events I wrote about in my book are true in their generality. People did find themselves clinging to trees. Some rescuers died. Entire families perished. Five bodies were never recovered. However, the characters I created are just figments of my imagination based on stories I read and saw in videos. None of the characters in this story are meant to portray any real person, or groups of people.

As I said above, I lived in Rapid City, SD for ten years. For five of those years I lived on “The Avenues”; first on 6th where I bought my first home, then on 4th. I grew to love this little neighborhood of one block streets. I have family that lives there still. I loved the fact that I could walk through that neighborhood and behind it and no two houses were alike. I loved the history of the neighborhood; the fact that it was so close to Jackson Blvd; the close proximity to the bike path and parks; and the fact that it had survived the flood.

So, when I needed a neighborhood in which to place my third mystery that was it. (I admit I did create a street. There is no actual 8th Avenue. )

I wrote the rough draft of this book in November of 2007 or 2008. I’m not sure of the year, but I’m positive about the month. I wrote it and another rough draft for NaNoWriMo one year. NaNoWriMo—standing for National Novel Writing Month—is a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. Since my books were approximately 25,000 words, I needed to write I chose to write books set in very familiar places and this was one of them.

However, as is typical once I started working on revisions some of the plot elements completely changed and the flood became more important to the story. I admit I cried during the flashback scenes that dealt with the flood, especially one where a survivor recounted her night of terror.  My heart broke for the people who suffered through this horrific event. I KNEW my characters weren’t real, but they were based on stories of REAL people.

On my facebook page I’ve begun to get a few comments from people who survived the flood. I hope that they find my story true enough to life that it is a good depiction of what really happened.

My hope is that through this story more people will gain a new appreciation of the history of Rapid City and the amazing come-back that has taken place there. It is a story of overcoming, working together despite differences, and doing what is needed to get things done. I look forward to hearing stories from people that were there. You see, that’s how I learn—by hearing real people tell real stories! What about you?

For a first person account I would recommend this book: Some Through the Flood: A Story of One Family’s Loss, Survival and Recovery From the 1972 Rapid City Flood, by Ronald W. and LaVonne Masters. It is available on Amazon in paperback and kindle.

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