JAMESTOWN, Colo. (AP) – The small mountain community of Jamestown commemorated the devastating flood of last September with blown-up posters of typewritten notes hung on the ceiling of the town hall.
“The night of day 2 we wondered if we were going to die,” read one.READ MORE: 2 Tigers At Pittsburgh Zoo Test Positive For COVID-19
“Joey’s favorite pie was banana cream,” read another, in reference to Joey Howlett, a local pillar and one of Boulder County’s four casualties during the 2013 flood.
One of the posters had just one unfinished sentence: “I climbed into the wreckage and grabbed her dress,”.
The display, organized by several locals in conjunction with artist group the bARTer Collective, captured the feelings of confusion, frustration, pride and triumph through which Jamestown residents admit they’ve cycled over the last year.
“Some still have a deep sadness about this, some are excited to move on, and then there’s everything in between,” said Martha Russo, who helped arrange the typewriter project.
“It was the most significant event in many of our lives,” Mayor Tara Schoedinger said Friday during a commemoration of the flood. “It was very traumatizing to a lot of people. They’re in every different possible state of emotion as it relates to being one year after this flood.”
A year ago, about 100 consecutive hours of heavy rain in Jamestown displaced all but 15 or so of the town’s 300 residents and wiped out 17 homes, 5,000 feet of roads, the fire station, the town square and half the water distribution system. Pound for pound, nowhere across the Front Range, save perhaps for Lyons and certain stretches of the Big Thompson Canyon, suffered comparable losses.
Much has been accomplished since then; 88 percent of households are now occupied, water service has been mostly restored and the town’s elementary school – a true “one-room” – is open.
True normalcy, however, remains a long way off. The James Canyon road up to town is a little more than half paved. Jamestown’s Main Street is littered with debris, mud and damaged structures on either side. Many residents are still living elsewhere, waiting on a safe, rebuilt home to move back into.
“Sometimes it’s frustrating to still be so involved with all of the recovery,” resident Suzanne Marie said. “People in my circle who don’t live up here don’t really understand that it’s exhausting to still be in the process. It’s hard to put it behind you when you still can’t drive up the road safely, and if you don’t know what your living circumstance is going to be.”
“I can’t come up here without feeling sad,” said Jan Dorsey, who is staying in Gunbarrel because her home of 38 years washed away in the flood. “I hope at one point I can come up here and be happy and get over that, but it just tears me apart every time.”READ MORE: Coloradan Nichole Ayers Chosen For NASA's New Astronaut Candidate Class
It’s been a year, but the memories are fresh for people like Dorsey.
“I was watching my friends’ houses falling in the water, and everybody walking around with their mouths open, like, ‘What the hell is happening here?” Dorsey said. “It changed my life, for sure.”
It changed the town forever, too – certainly in terms of damage, but just as notably in the unity it fostered.
“The best part of this has been to see how the town did not separate,” said Leon Hill, one of the few residents who stuck it out in Jamestown all year. “We came together better than we were before.”
Added Tim Stokes, a 22-year resident and now trustee: “The people here are very strong, very confident and very committed to helping each other and the town. People really love it here. We’ve done a remarkable job of staying cohesive, making things happen, having a great time and taking care of each other.”
To come together on the anniversary week, resident Oak Chezar said, is both important and therapeutic.
“It’s not like we won, or it’s over, or any of that,” she said. “But to celebrate the fact that a year has passed and here we are is really amazing. It’s not perfect, but we made it. And look how creative and beautiful and resilient and strong we are.”
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– By Alex Burness, Camera Staff WriterMORE NEWS: After Audit Reveals More Colorado Unemployment System Fraud, Some People 'Still Fighting' For Payments
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