This is the last in the series of reflections on the 1976 Big Thompson Flood—but not the last in memories.
Unlike the 24/7 coverage of Colorado’s recent flood, news of the 1976 flood trickled in slowly.
In 1976, TV stations generally signed off around midnight, or at least after the Johnny Carson show. No weather channel. No Jim Cantore.
Just a buzz of black and white “snow” after midnight.
Often the first information about the flood came from radio or telephone conversations.
One friend of mine—a mother with an infant and two toddlers—first learned of the flood when a neighbor knocked on her door at 4 a.m. Sunday August 1st to let her know that the water supply for county residents was unsafe.
As a mental health worker, the magnitude of the disaster hit me when I began working at the intake desk at the temporary morgue set up at the old Loveland Memorial Hospital.
At 5 p.m. that evening, one of the workers in the morgue emerged with a hand written note.
He asked me to call a woman in another state to let he know that her sister’s body had been found.
Cemented in a strange numbness after four hours at the intake desk, I placed the call to convey the bad news.
I hate to say it but it seemed a little easier to deliver terrible news by phone than to look into the searching uncertainty in the eyes of those who still held hope of a loved one’s survival.
I still think about that woman and hope she had someone to turn to after hearing the news I delivered.
Much of what happened in the days and weeks after the flood are less vivid than the events of the first two days.
Once in a while, when I run into a friend who worked at the clinic with me we talk about our experiences. We each carry with us some tears from the waters of the Big Thompson.
And we were the lucky ones. I hope we were at last a little useful to those who came our way.