Author’s Note

Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955

by Mary A. Shafer

Excerpt from the Author’s Note:

I live just a few miles from several of the hardest-hit 1955 flood areas along the Delaware River. In an almost unbelievable twist, another flood of similar but somewhat smaller proportions occurred when the remnants of Hurricane Ivan passed through, just as I was completing my research for this book. As I was finishing the manuscript, an even greater flood occurred on April 3-4, 2005.

Respectively, these crests were the fourth and third highest recorded on the Delaware River to date. My heart goes out to those for whom these more recent deluges caused much loss, trouble and expense. Having talked with some of these people, I found their sense of violation and helplessness enormous, and yet most are choosing to remain “river people.”

My own losses were small, and I must admit—with a certain amount of guilt—that for me as a writer, it provided the kind of timely insight one can’t possibly even hope for. Through this experience, I was able to live for myself many of the emotions and activities previously only described to me secondhand. Especially in dealing with an historical subject, this was tremendously valuable. There is a level of detail and understanding one finds in experiencing such an event that would elude one after the fact, regardless how skilled a researcher or how compassionate a listener one may be.

In an ironic way, the situation has a certain poetic justice. I believe this experience has helped me do a better job of relating the experiences of the ’55 flood’s survivors, and of those who didn’t survive; an effort to which I feel a strong obligation.