'Clendenin Strong': community reflects on two-year anniversary of flood
CLENDENIN, KANAWHA COUNTY (WCHS/WVAH) —
Saturday marks two years since the devastating June 2016 floods. For many families, the evening of June 23 felt like a nightmare.
For the people of Clendenin, the images will forever remain in their minds.
"It was a very tragic day for our family, as well as for everyone," said Holli Hess.
Across the state, 26 lives were lost just two years ago and several more in the aftermath.
"My mother-in-law passed away. She had an injury on her ankle and became septic," said Hess.
But with every tragedy comes hope. The town of Clendenin, which was completely underwater two years ago, continues to rise above. Saturday marked its inaugural homecoming festivities.
"Two years ago, we were in shambles," said Mayor Shana Clendenin. "We want people who are from here, who helped here during the recovery to come out and celebrate how far we've come in the last two years."
It's giving back to those who have given this town a fighting chance to survive.
"I cannot describe to you or explain to you how wonderful people have been to our community. It's just been a miracle and a blessing," said Hess.
"When the flood first happened, I was just right down the road, so i came for a lot of the rebuilding --- making bags for people and getting them what they needed. Seeing how resilient they are and how much they've bounced back from all of that is really incredible," said Lauren Gorman, Clendenin Homecoming Festival Teen.
"It's exciting to see the streets of the town filled with people," said Charley Clayton, Clendenin Homecoming Festival Queen.
With those people comes opportunity.
"We have had a tremendous amount of our businesses, pre-flood, that have come back and opened their doors. We've had new businesses who have come in -- the Mexican restaurant, someone just purchased the old bank building..." said Clendenin.
"Clendenin Strong" - residents say they'll never forget the lives lost but want to create new memories for many years to come.
"I know this weekend is emotional for everyone. Instead of sitting at home and being sad and dwelling on it, come out! Spend time on main street, and at the carnival, and see your neighbors -- celebrate!" said Clendenin.