Kansas City revisits flood

BY DANIEL R. GANGLER | Kansas City, MO | October 4, 1999


One year ago today, a wall of water burst through creeks in Kansas City, Mo. taking with it the lives of 11 people and

damaging the property of nearly 7,000 families.

Now that autumn rains are falling, the flash flood threat looms again. Last week over a two-day span, Kansas City received

four inches of rain. As residents remember all they lost in last year's disaster, another flood season has begun.

To commemorate the victims who died in last year's flash flood and help heal lingering emotional wounds, the Kansas City

Interfaith Council for Disaster Response is coordinating events at two churches and near a site on Brush Creek, where seven

of the 11 deaths occurred.

A prayer vigil will be held near Watkins Fountain, just downstream from the fatal Prospect Ave. Bridge, where a wall of

water reported to be higher than trees swept away cars and their passengers as horrified onlookers watched them disappear

into the swift-moving creek, said the Rev. Ruth C. Hotle, interfaith council associate director.

Following the prayer vigil, a memorial service will continue at Brush Creek as children and families remember loved ones

such as Darryl Weems, who perished with his wife, Bonita Black Weems, in the creek.

Two other interfaith services will be held, including a "Service of Remembering, Recovering, and Hoping" in the chapel of the

Christian Community Church, and a memorial service at the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ.

Hotle said the "Service of Remembering" is a community worship service to help more than 50 families grieve over their

losses, celebrate the future, and bring the interfaith council's year-long response efforts to a formal end by "offering thanks to

God for the resources offered in assistance and for recovery."

Another service, entitled "Let the Healing Begin," will honor the 11 victims who died in the flash flood.

Marvin Hudson, whose brother, Orlando, 27, was a flood fatality, organized this service that, according to Hotle, will be the

first public memorial service to honor the lives of those who died in the flood and the first time that the families of the victims

will share their losses together in a healing environment. Hudson expects 1,000 people will attend the service.

Hudson said there are two reasons why he wanted such a service: First, "to bring healing to the lives of the families who lost

loved ones in the flood" and second, to educate the public about swiftwater rescue efforts so that this problem doesn't happen

again, and to lobby for counseling services to support survivors.

He said he also hopes forgiveness for what some regard as the city's omissions in what Hudson called "one of the worst

failures in swiftwater rescue in recent memory." He added that, even though all those who died were African-Americans, this

is not a black-white racial issue but an economic issue about how the city spends its money.

With great emotion, Hudson said: "Losing my brother took the life out of me. I saw a lack of communication and a lack of

prevention that should have been there." He claimed that the city has lost more than 100 people to fatal flooding since 1903, a

disaster which recurs about once every decade. Another flash flood in 1977 claimed 25 lives.

The Rev. Dan Jordan, bishop of the Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, will host and lead the memorial service. Speaking at

the service will be Jeff Cox, a member of the swiftwater rescue team in nearby Bonner Springs, Kan. which, unlike Kansas

City, has such a team in place.

Other speakers will include Missouri State Rep. Terry Riley (42nd Dist.) and Richard Noll, Kansas City's new assistant city

manager charged with management of emergency response.

Hudson said he hopes that this service, and his other efforts, will encourage Kansas City and other cities nationwide to

establish swiftwater rescue teams and long-term support counseling for survivors. He lives in Los Angeles, which has a

swiftwater rescue team.

According to a recent article in the Kansas City Star, since last October, the city has fixed flood monitors, hired an emergency

manager, who will have authority to mobilize all the city's resources when a disaster strikes, and started work to replace the

Prospect Ave. Bridge. The Star also reported that city's fire department recently awarded two contracts to upgrade

emergency equipment and next month plans to train every department member in rescuing people from rushing creeks and

rivers.


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