Chapter 14

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

by Mary A. Shafer

Excerpt from Chapter 14:

Three-week-old Alan Jackson is in the arms of his mother in the space they’ll call home for the next several weeks. It’s the kindergarten section of the Makefield School, and his older brothers, Robert and Don, are enjoying all the attention their family is getting. The media swarms about, taking pictures of “the youngest flood victim.

They’ll make the papers as a human interest story, having been flooded out of their home just north of the Yardley boat ramp, not far from where Harry Brisco saved his dog. Alan’s parents have no insurance, and won’t be able to afford to bring the house back from its nearly destroyed state.

Alan will grow up in Levittown, far enough from the threatening waters of the Delaware to please his parents. It will also keep him from growing up as a “river kid,” something he’ll come to feel as a loss in his life. He’ll grow up to develop his own relationship with the Delaware, working for the state of Pennsylvania as a bridge inspector. He’ll see other floods on other rivers, some whose winter cargo of huge ice floes wrap deer around trees and strip the bark off for twenty feet above the ground. But it’s the Delaware that will always hold his heart and capture his imagination.

As an adult, Alan will return to the Delaware again and again, rod and reel in hand, and a boat sliding between him and the water. He will contemplate his relationship to this living presence that has shaped his life directly and indirectly. He’ll write a poem about the hold it still exerts on him. It will end not like a poem, but a love letter:

Me and the Delaware River,
Not always seeing eye to eye,
But heritage runs deep and clear,
So the river is where I’ll die.