Flood Flashback: Floating coffins - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Flood Flashback: Floating coffins

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July 8, 2004

Albany-- Ten years ago today, the streets of Albany were not only flooded with debris, but coffins. Both Riverside and Oakview Cemeteries were barely recognizable because of the brown colored water. 

Coffins and vaults were pulled up from their resting place, helplessly stuck in the muddy water, "You have to understand, the water was moving, it was not standing still, it was moving," said then Coroner Bucky Brookshier.

Water that unearthed more than 400 coffins. “Nobody knew exactly what to do. A floating morgue out of control," Brookshier said.

“The water, at the peak of the flood, was up to this pole right here.” Two feet above the six-foot-tall Brookshier.  “I think about what it took to get to this point.”

It took finding caskets and bodies, and then the daunting task of identifying the skeletal remains. More than 300 got names and not a number. “We had hundreds of people involved from all over the United States, here at the morgue sight.”

Still ten years later, 95 people not identified, those souls forever remembered as the lost, but not forgotten.  “We actually had 97, but due to the location of two of the recoveries we knew that they came from the Jewish section of the cemetery.”

In the Jewish section, 50 to 60 graves were sucked down a lime sinkhole and some never recovered.  “Some of those graves were well over 100 years old.”

 It took nine and a half years, but renovations were finally finished in December, because FEMA cut the money from one million dollars to $600,000. "We did everything we could with what nature provided us."

Nature provided a whole lot of water, but now it's providing green grass on top of a small hill, so the lost, but not forgotten souls will rest in peace without worries of moving again.

The body recovery plan created during the 1994 flood is now used all over the world during major natural disasters.

posted at 6:40PM by dave.miller@walb.com