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 2017. 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.
So why am I posting an old Ektachrome slide of an old lake? Well, this was the lake that vanished the night the dam broke—killing 39 of my friends and neighbors. I try to write about it every year for a number of reasons.
1) The lake was part of so many crazy, funny, terrifying, awful, wonderful stories of my early life. a)My 5-year-old self caught my first fish and shot my first gun with Gpa here…a Belgian Browning 12-gauge that kicked like a mule and knocked me clean on my…never mind, Gpa laughed really hard. b) I won a skinny dipping dare contest against all my “friends” swimming the length of this lake in record, terrified time, “illegally” on a Sunday. (repressed, pre-adolescent, male 60s thing) c) This was the first place I knew I was in love at 14…for like a week. d) Broke up one of the nastiest fights here…yeah, it was over a girl. d) Cut my last Christmas tree with my dad here.
2) This wonderful lake almost killed me when the dam broke. The lake flooded about a mile down a mountain then plunged over a 180 ft waterfall just a few hundred yards from my house. I will never forget the 50 ft wall of water roaring by at about 60 mph as a transformer exploded near my second story bedroom window. Of course, I did a stupid thing. I ran out the other side of the house trying to escape to a nearby mountain. The sheer terror of swimming for my life UP the mountain as the roaring waters pushed and pulled me is something I still can’t forget. I should have drowned. Panicky promises poured out of my mouth like lines from a Burt Reynolds movie. I promise I will never do this…I will never do that… Funny now, not so much then.
3) The lake holds an odd place in my heart with all these mixed memories of beauty, fear, love, violence, peace, and yes, horror. I try to make sense of it. We will all reach that point where we regularly start losing things in our lives and end up with only the core of our character. This is all going to be in the mix. So I regularly have to remind myself to be grateful for all God has put in my life since that night, including the good, the bad and the painful. He’s faithful in my mess…even when it makes no sense to me.
Posted in: Memories