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The Register-Herald of Beckley media package looks at flood recovery

Editor’s Note: The Register-Herald of Beckley offers a collection of articles, photos and videos on the region’s recovery from the 2016 flooding. Find the entire package here: http://www.register-herald.com/flood/

 

Richwood dedicates five new homes to those lost in last year’s floods

By Jordan Nelson

The Register-Herald of Beckley

RICHWOOD, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice told the town of Richwood not to worry because there are better days ahead, during a dedication Thursday of the town’s newest houses after several were destroyed during last year’s extreme flooding.

“June 23 last year was a day a lot like today,” Justice said, “It was just a normal day in West Virginia, but all of a sudden it began to rain.”

“The devastation was unbelievable,” he said. “The loss of life was unbelievable.”

Justice said he saw destruction like he had never seen before and he is grateful for the new homes built in Richwood.

“These new homes,” Justice said pointing behind him, “This is good stuff, and those moving into them are going to carry a scar with them forever.”

“They deserve these houses,” he said.

Justice received a key to the city from Richwood Mayor Dr. Bob Henry Baber, and then signed a declaration for each of the homes.

A key for each new home was distributed to five different members of the community.

Rebecca Murphy, now a Richwood native, lost her home in Birch River to last year’s flood.

She was dedicated a new home in Richwood, and the only word she could think of to describe the feeling is “amazing.”

“We all grow up dreaming about how we want a nice, new home,” Murphy said. “But that never happened for me.”

Murphy moved to Birch River because her younger brother previously passed away, and she needed to take care of her parents’ estate.

“I had to make arrangements to get everything in order, but then the home got hit by the flood,” she said.

Murphy said she will never forget the devastation. “It turned my life upside down, inside out and I still get scared when it thunders.”

“I lost everything my parents owned,” Murphy said. “But they’re up there looking down on me now, and I know they would be so happy I have this new home on their behalf.”

Each new home was built on the site of Richwood’s former hospital, with the help of several different corporations including Neighbors Loving Neighbors, West Virginia Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, Appalachian Service Project (ASP) and Mennonite Disaster Service.

Walter Crouch, president of ASP, said it seemed like it was only yesterday the devastation occurred.

“It is such a pleasure to enjoy this moment with Richwood,” Crouch said. “Now look, we have five completed homes, it’s amazing.”

“Recovery for our town is only about 25 percent completed,” Mayor Baber said. “But you have to take it piece by piece, just like a mosaic.”

Baber said the dedication is a big piece of the mosaic and the new homes are symbolic in the rebirth of Richwood.

“We have been through a lot,” Baber said. “We’ve been through the 1,000-year flood, we’ve been through the allotting of our schools, and everything in between.”

“But today is a day for gratitude,” he said. “Our town has pulled together and it’s just a really happy day.”

Baber said the town’s next step will be the building of five more homes, just like the one’s dedicated in Thursday’s ceremony.

Sen. Joe Manchin was not able to attend the dedication due to other obligations, but a prepared statement was made on his behalf.

“It is my privilege to extend a heartfelt welcome home to the flood survivors and their families as we celebrate today’s home dedications. Last June, we lost 23 of our own. Families were devastated. Thousands of homes and businesses destroyed.

Communities were shaken to their core. However, as we do in times of challenge and trial, West Virginia is bounded strongly together. Because that is just who we are. That is one of the many things that makes our state so special.

“No amount of kindness has gone unappreciated, and the strength of our citizens has been an inspiration to the entire nation. …  On West Virginia Day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the sun does not always shine in the state of West Virginia, but the people always do. Last year at this time the sun wasn’t shining, but as the flood waters receded, our spirit would shine once again. Let us continue to reflect on the resilient spirit of our home state, who has carried us out of heartache and that keeps us forever closely knit, proud, and grateful. …”

— Email: [email protected]; follow on Twitter @jnelsonRH

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