Senator John Thune
“Remembrance and Renewal” is the theme this weekend as residents of Rapid City and the Black Hills reflect upon the flood that forever changed their lives and communities 40 years ago.
South Dakotans throughout the entire state should take pause as well to remember that night in 1972 when over 10 inches of rain fell on much of the Hills, with reports of up to 15 inches near Nemo. The deluge of water turned creeks into raging rivers, flooded neighborhoods and streets, burst dams and wreaked havoc across the region. The flood resulted in 238 fatalities, injured thousands, destroyed 1,300 homes, and damaged 2,800 more, with total damage estimated over $165 million – which amounts to over $900 million in inflation adjusted dollars.
I know people who have only recently been able to talk about the devastation and others who still cannot bring themselves to reflect on that harrowing night. It is believed to be the second most deadly flood in the history of the United States. Yet through that tragedy has come triumph. The resiliency of broad-shouldered South Dakotans emerged, as we have seen in other communities throughout the state when ravaged by floods, fires, or tornadoes.
From these flooded areas in Rapid City, we now find golf courses, parks, and bike paths. The Civic Center and Central High School construction soon followed. Residents in Keystone, Black Hawk, Box Elder, and elsewhere did the same, rebuilding their communities despite heavy hearts.
It is estimated that 60 to 70 percent of the people now living in the area were not there 40 years ago. It is important that we reflect upon that night so young people and citizens new to the community know of the losses that were endured and are aware of the sacrifices that were made.
It is through this 40th anniversary remembrance that plaques become more than bronze nameplates and memorials become more than just decorations. They become personalized with the memories of friends and family lost, and gain meaning for the survivors who stood together to rebuild Rapid City and towns throughout the Black Hills.
This weekend will allow us all to solemnly remember those losses, to celebrate that resolve, and to quietly rejoice in the renewal.