AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - The Flood of '94 changed thousands of lives. 31 people died in Georgia. Five here in Albany and 15 in Americus. 20 years ago John Hurley and Carolyn Hawkins lost their families to the Flood.
July 5th, about 11 PM, Hurley and his three year old son John the third drove to Cooper Lighting to pick up his wife Kathy, because water was coming into the building. On the way home their car was washed off the road. "All the sudden water just bust loose and turned the car all the way around. And just swept it over in the ditch," Hurley said.
Climbing out of the car, John was swept away by the fast water, and saw the car sink with his wife and child still inside. He clung to a pole in the Reeves Construction yard, blinking the light on top to attract attention for help.
"That was one of the longest and coldest nights of my life. It rained all night. And I didn't think it was ever going to be never over with. And couldn't do nothing but sit there and think about my family," Hurley said.
The next morning Carolyn's husband Bull Hawkins, her 16 year old son Kendrick, a high school football and basketball star, and 8 year old son Kourtney left for work and school. They never made it. The truck was spotted in the Browns Mill Pond near their home late that afternoon. Carolyn said "They came and told me they had found my husband. But they hadn't found the boys. They had drowned in the pond down there." John and Carolyn's families gone, five of the 15 names listed on the plaque in downtown Americus honoring flood victims.
John Hurley said "I didn't think I'd ever get over that. But yet still, he made something good of it." John helped start a support group for the survivors. Carolyn joined. Carolyn said "We started going places together, and talking. It turned into something else, I guess."
John and Carolyn married, and now their 17 year old son Johnathan is preparing to start his senior year at Americus Sumter High School. 20 years later they say they still talk about the flood and their families lost. "It was a tragedy and we think about it everyday. But it's also, not that, overcome it," Carolyn Hurley said. Not even a flood could stop the love that joined this family together into one.
Kendrick Hawkins' jersey is now displayed in the high school gym, and the school will retire his number this year.