Former nurse 'can still see the faces' of victims 50 years after the 1972 Rapid City flood
The attached audio above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment.
The 50th commemoration of the 1972 Black Hills Flood is June 9. It’s a time to honor the 238 people who died, and it also brings a flood of memories for those who survived. Each week between now and June 9, SDPB is sharing stories from those survivors, in their own words.
This week, we hear from Sharon Weber. On the night of the flood, she reported to St. John’s McNamara Hospital in Rapid City, where she was a nurse and the manager of the Emergency Department.
"The week before, just exactly the Friday before that, we had a disaster drill training at the hospital, which was quite interesting, because we were all refreshed on what to do with a disaster. Another very interesting thing is there was a Death and Dying workshop in Rapid City that weekend. And there was doctors and nurses from everywhere. We had more help than we could actually ever use.
"So then when I got to work, I just remember a steady stream of people. It wasn't all bunched up. They just trickled in. I shouldn't say "trickled in." They came in. We'd have beds for them. We'd have some waiting in the hallways. And we had nurses out there watching them.
"We gave lots of tetanus shots. We had some pretty serious injuries. And then cars would come in. And at the emergency entrance, there was a big canopy across that connected over to the nurses' home. And one of the doctors and a nurse was assigned to be out there on triage and tell them whether to come into the ER or where to go. Whether to go across the street to where they were keeping people. And if they were deceased, the doctor checked them and told them which morgue to go to.
"And it was a foggy, dreary, spooky night. I still have that eerie feeling from that night. But then we worked, and we worked, and we worked on people. A lot of kids came in that needed tetanus shots, and we sewed up lots of lacerations. Some were in their night clothes. And some, their clothes were muddy and wet.
"And I can still see the faces of some of those, just scared to death."
The Journey Museum & Learning Center in Rapid City will screen a new SDPB documentary, “Surviving the ’72 Flood,” at 6:30 p.m. Mountain time on June 8. The film will air on SDPB-1 the next evening, June 9, at 9 Central/8 Mountain.
SDPB will also release an episodic podcast about the flood later this month.