AJC headline November 1977

For the past few years, I have tried to compose a memorial insight to my experience in the Toccoa Falls Flood of 1977. This was my social media post for 2018. Sorry for any confusion with the date on the post from when I actually wrote it. And yes, I know it seems like I’ve posted several things on the flood over the past few months, but they have actually been posted over the past few years.


A mountain dam broke at Toccoa Falls, GA, killing 39. I lived a mile below on the creek close to the falls and miraculously survived a killer 50-foot wall of water. Later, I sat on a downed tree, soaked in stinking muck, watching a grim water show of dark, misty geysers. It was both horrible and magnificent. But the horrible part got worse. And I had to relive it under oath due to a lawsuit, as I was one of the last people to see the unbroken dam.

The spot where it failed was a beautiful place, full of memories. But of things remembered, there was something I forgot. I recently found archival news footage with my ducks swimming happily on the pond by my house, days after the tragedy. Yup, I had three drakes (males) and a duck. Guess what the drakes thought n’ fought about 24/7? Thus, my take on an old question. Why did the degenerate, dumb ducks survive, and the faithful folks (and kids) working to be missionaries, pastors and teachers die? What an epic, horrible, meaningless tragedy!

Some cried it was the devil’s fault, others said it was God. My perspective has leaned into James 4:14 since hearing a meditation on Spotify called Vapor. “What is your life? For you are a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” Vapor? Those tiny particles randomly circulating and then gone? That’s how the “Good News” describes our life? Sheesh. What’s the bad news? It’s so hopelessly, depressing that we can do everything possible to distract and/or medicate it away––or we can rest in it. Everything that has ever happened and will happen to every life on this blue speck in a vast galaxy––vapor.

How that will ever be “good” is unfathomable–until we consider the horror and beauty of the resurrection. It changes everything. Only the oneness of God’s sovereignty over our universe of pain, people and particles will ever bring this anarchic vapor into order and goodness. Not gonna lie, I often have trouble accepting this. Peace does not end grief or pain. There were horrors and tragedies long before Nov 6, and more after. But the resurrection informs me there is a plan, a promise and God—even when it makes no human sense and hurts like hell—ducks and all.

WSB Newsfilm Collection, University of Georgia Libraries

To see complete and clean footage:

Posted in: Life, Memories