RICHWOOD, W.Va. (CNS) — Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston visited flood-devastated Richwood July 18 to see the progress of recovery in the town following the historic flooding in June that claimed the lives of 23 people across the state.
“To actually see the places where this terrible flooding took place in West Virginia is to begin to understand how much suffering has gone on amongst our people,” Bishop Bransfield said. “They have been through a horrible disaster, and their spirit is a great example to all of us.”
This was the bishop’s second visit to an area recovering from the floods. On July 2, he visited White Sulphur Springs, where he celebrated Mass at St. Charles Borromeo Church.
During his trip to Richwood, the bishop visited a neighborhood that sits beside the Cherry River, which quickly overflowed its banks the evening of June 23 as 7 inches of rain fell in just three hours. He also visited three residents of the neighborhood who are trying to repair their homes which were destroyed in the flood.
Nancy Mullins was one of those residents.
“I watched the water come up,” she said to the bishop as she walked him through what is left of her house. Outside of her house and all along her street, piles of debris await pickup. Mud still cakes the street, and dust clings to the air. Many residents cannot stay in their houses as repairs are made because the damage is so severe.
With the bishop that day was Divine Word Father Quy Ngoc Dang, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Richwood, who has been with the people through this tragedy. Holy Family Church sits high above the small town of a little more than 2,000 residents. The Cherry River flows just below the front of the church, where a direct view of the center of Richwood can be seen.
“The night of the flood,” Father Dang said, “it looked like there was a waterfall downtown.”
Recovery from that night is going to be long term, said Deacon David Galvin of St. James Parish in Charles Town, who has been volunteering with flood recovery in the area. He said much has been done to help victims of the flood, but the need is still so great in the town.
“Anyone who shows any care at all, there is incredible thanks,” Deacon Galvin said of the people. “I really think that with contributions from Catholic Charities that we have a chance to really make sound investments in people’s lives.”
Since the flood occurred, volunteers have been helping with clean up and recovery. They have come from around the state and throughout the country to help in Richwood and in other parts of West Virginia that were also devastated by the flood.
Rowan is editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.