Flooded with Mercy
By Sister Anne P.
“Oh, no! Another Agnes Flood!” I exclaimed as I learned the Susquehanna River was rising, jeopardizing the Wyoming Valley which had been inundated 39 years ago. I lived ten miles away in Dallas, Pennsylvania, with Sr. Dorothy McLaughlin, RSM, chair of the art department of College Misericordia, now Misericordia University. I handled publicity for the Sisters of Mercy of the Province of Scranton, now the Dallas Office of the Mid-Atlantic Community, at adjacent Mercy Center. Both institutions became major evacuation sites and we two were among those offering Mercy hospitality to hundreds of victims.
This time when Tropical Storm Lee approached on September 8, 2011, we dwelled in Wilkes-Barre two blocks from the already raging water, and our role was reversed. We became evacuees ourselves.
To complicate matters, Marie was scheduled to take her visiting 89-year-old mother Kitty home to Ireland in two days and her bags had to be packed for the journey. That problem was solved by another faithful volunteer, Geri Melovitz, who appeared out of nowhere and took command.
Shortly before the deadline, our cars were loaded and we departed for Mercy Center in a caravan of three vehicles. Although we were joining our Mercy family, we were forlorn as we drove from our driveway.
The 25-minute journey to Dallas took almost two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic of some of our 65,000 fellow evacuees. Once there, unlike those who fled to other shelters, we were comfortable. We watched the news on TV constantly, fearful as the river rose, hopeful it would crest before reaching flood stage.
We departed from Mercy Center when the ban was lifted on Saturday, skirting streets closed to traffic. It seemed months since we had left home, rather than 48 hours. Gratefully we saw that the river had not touched our immediate neighborhood. Our only problem now was to unpack and restore our house to order.
Others were not so fortunate. Homes and businesses were destroyed, basements were filled with muddy, polluted water, roofs were damaged, trees were uprooted, electric power was disrupted. People began the cruel task of seeking food or cleaning supplies from the Red Cross, shoveling mud and carting sodden furniture to the curb. Rebuilding looms ahead with terrifying personal and economic costs.
The flood of 2011 created new roles for victims and helpers. For Dorothy and me, it was our turn to receive Mercy hospitality.