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  • Lakota Ison-Byrd

Guest Post: The Floods of '22

When we tell our young folks about “The Floods of ‘22,” we won’t be able to tell them how our government sent in aid to help us. We won’t be able to tell them about how people came from all over the country, generously giving their time, labor, and dollars to help Appalachia.

We will tell them about how Appalachians came. We will tell them how Appalachians banded together and picked up shovels. Appalachians donated money, time, food, sweat, tears, and prayers. We will tell them how basically no politician or people came to our aid (save a few) and the ones that did come, flew in on their helicopters dressed in suits and took photos (save a few). We will tell them how local government hesitated to ask for help for the people they had been elected to serve and represent as their own.

We will tell them how the land and people were exploited since the 1800s for the rich coal and timber deposits in the name of “progress” and the almighty dollar. Once coal was discovered to have economic value, men from the north who wore suits started showing up telling everyone how much money the people of Appalachia were sitting on.

The land and the people were stripped of their resources, mined of their lives, and nothing was ever given back. The earth lost millions of years of developed coal and trees. The company store runneth over. Mothers lost sons. Children lost fathers (some later than sooner). Nothing was ever invested back into the land or the people to ensure that when tragedy struck, they could rebuild.

The earth lost natural drainage systems that developed as the Appalachian mountains rose and eroded over 480 million years. Routes 23 and 119 wound their way atop ridges and all of that wash-off from the days of rain had nowhere to go but down into valleys, hollers, gulleys, and into people’s homeplaces.

It was a disaster waiting to happen. Appalachian land and people bought many a wealthy life, but nobody ever bought Appalachia infrastructure upgrades. Things can only get taken so much and for so long before something decides it’s time for reclamation; violently if necessary.

We will tell our young folk, “The Floods of ‘22 were just asking to happen. But nobody cared.

Nobody paid attention.” Appalachia is stereotypically poor, ignorant, bigoted, and hateful. But, we will tell our young folks, “Appalachians helped Appalachians. No matter if we had never met, we helped. If we had moved away, we helped. If we did not agree, we helped. We helped because nobody else would.”

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