Saturday, April 11

Nightmare of Uncertainty

Part 6... Supper was cooked over an open fire. But who could eat with our possessions, our homes, and our lives in ruins? Soon after supper, or perhaps it was just before, I don't recall exactly, I was walking through the dining room and the entire house lit up - the sky became far brighter than day. It was like the blinding white flash before an explosion. Someone screamed, "Lie down on the floor!, and we all did - all except the men who rushed out to see what it was. The Power Company transformers had shorted out as the water reached them. Twice the flash lit up the sky, and twice people thought "the oil drums and Johnstown!"

At seven-thirty I was sitting before the fire when they brought the news. "The River Has Crested!" But even with those words it was hard to feel joy or even relief - the damage was already done. The rest of the time until morning was a nightmare of uncertainty. When the sky finally became light and I had eaten one orange for breakfast I left, unnoticed, to see if our house was still there. Mother had forbidden me to go. Still I trudged down the long hill. Upon reaching the street where the flood had been, I found mud nearly up to my ankles. It smelled acid and as I made my way wearily toward home, my shoes made ugly sucking noises. With dread in my heart unequaled by any I had known, I crossed our mud-carpeted lawn and ascended the steps. I hesitated, then shoved the door open. For a second I stood horrified in disbelief, then I leaned heavily against the door frame, physically sick. The lovely gold upholstered chairs were piled in the middle of the floor. The fabulous library strewn helter-skelter in the rancid, odorous filth, the drapes torn and ruined, and the lamps smashed. I wiped the tears from my eyes as I heard Daddy behind me. He was too hurt already. Tears would make it worse.

Kathryn Maggard lived in Woodland Park in Hazard. Her father – Clarence Maggard was a coal operator, her mother was Mary Ward Gabbard Maggard and her brother – Elmer Maggard became a well known doctor. Kathy left Hazard many years ago and married Ike Vanderpool, one of the survivors of the nation’s worst school bus accident that happened in 1958 in Prestonsburg. They lived in Andersonville, Tennessee where they owned a marina and boat dock. Kathy wrote her amazing story when she was around 14 years old and a student at Hazard High School. She truly was an old soul. Sadly - Kathryn died in 2002 at the age of 59. We encourage everyone to share their thoughts on Kathy’s story by clicking on the “comments” link. Wanderer


  1. I was in Louisville during the '57 flood--trying to learn how to be a nurse. I wanted to be home in Hazard. I needed to feel the fear, saddness and anxiety that my family, friends and neighbors
    were feeling. Kathy helped me experience the flood in a personal way, even after all these years.

  2. This finish made chills as I stood there with Kathy. What a writer and how proud her family has to be of her and I hope Ike was able to access and read this blog.

    Thank you, Kathy, for your precious memories and thank you, Shane, for putting them in text for all to read and see what a wonderful little girl the Maggards had and how she kept such an account of what was happening around her with a broken spirit and broken heart.

  3. I loved her story and was saddended to know she has passed away.Even though I did not know her personally, I feel as though I came to know a small part of her through her heartfelt story.