This is the 25th anniversary of the Flood of 1985, which hit the Roanoke Valley Nov. 4-5 of that year. David Bradford of Salem shares these photos and this remembrance of the flood:
Hello, my name is David Bradford and I thought I would share my story about the flood of ’85. In June of 1982, I married a wonderful woman by the name of Patricia Vipperman. We were engaged two years before getting married. We saved our money and bought all our furnishings for our new home. That new home turned out to be a ten year mobile home my sister and her husband bought when they got married in 1972. We set out to update the place with new appliances and carpet and on the outside, new underpinning and a patio cover and storage buildings and lots of roses and scrubs and well, landscaping all around. The mobile home was set up in an beautiful mobile home park called Salem Village. The backyard sloped down to a little babbling creek that we enjoyed putting our feet in. The park’s residences were mostly retired couples and the park was clean and neat and the owner, Mr. Miller made sure it stayed that way. We called it our “Honeymoon Cottage!”
Our plan was to live there and save our money then buy a bigger home somewhere within Salem after about five years. After a couple years of marriage my wife became pregnant with our first son. Christopher Ryan Bradford was born on August 27th 1985. We had prepared a beautiful new nursery for him. After our son Christopher was born my wife stayed home for a couple months before returning to work at Medeco Security Locks. My Mother-In-Law was our babysitter. I was working or Appalachian Power Company during this time. Patricia had just been back to work a short time when the flood came on November the 5th. Both my wife and I were at work and our son was at his Grandma’s on that day. It rained hard all that morning and my sister who lived in the same spot for so many years knew the creek behind the house would rise and cause trouble from time to time. She had a key to our house and came by to check on things. Well, things were not good. She called me at work and told me I should come home and that the underpinning was beginning to wash away. I came straight home and we could tell this was going to be bad. Very bad. We started preparing to move out what we could. She started bagging up all the baby’s clothes. I started getting our important papers and photos together. Then we started gathering our clothes from the closets and grabbing what we could carry out to our vehicles. It seemed only minutes when we heard a large log slam into the side of the house. I looked out and saw the water was rising more quickly then I could ever imagine. I told her to drop everything and let’s go. She asked about all the stuff and I said, “Forget it! We’re going to be lucky to get out ourselves.” We waded through very swift and deepening water until we got out of the flooding waters and onto dry land. We drove around to the parking lot of General Electric and there and watched our “Honeymoon Cottage” including he new baby’s nursery float down the creek. Patricia tried to come home but the flood waters had the roads blocked and she was stuck. She was stuck from her family and her home. We stayed the night at my In-laws and gave prayers of thanksgiving for everyone being safe. We went to bed that night without a change of clothes and not even a toothbrush. Those things we all take for granted.
The next morning, Patricia and I drove over to Salem Village to see if we could even find out home. We found what was left of if about a block down the road and part of the walls were torn off. We went inside and were heart broken to what we saw. Everything we worked so hard for was either gone or destroyed. We knew our lives would be different but we were young and knew we could start over. For the next several days we tried to salvage what we could with the help of our family. My father-in-law found the trunk I put all our important papers and photos in down on the bank of the creek downstream. We cleaned pictures that night and saved about 85% of them. One of the most amazing things we encountered were looters coming and stealing what possessions we had left. I would make a pile outside of things we thought we could save and when we came out it all would be gone. Stolen by looters. We lived with my in-laws for the next 4 months while we tried to get our live back to normal. One thing we learned from all of this was how wonderful many people were. Our family and friends and co-workers, our employers and our church family and even strangers were so loving and giving during that time. We had insurance but not near enough to cover what we lost. We were blessed to have all the help and encouragement during those days and weeks. We have remembered all that and have tried to help others in return when we hear of a family who has suffered loss.
That flood took our possessions but it didn’t break our spirits. We were saddened as much for our neighbors as were for ourselves. We had such wonderful neighbors and many were elderly and didn’t want to have to start over but did and did it well. We kept in touch over the next few years or so and everyone seemed to bounce back and continued their lives but in different locations. At that time we thought that had to be one of the worse things that could happen to a person but we later found all that to be a walk in the park to what lied ahead for us. A couple of short years after the flood our son Christopher developed leukemia and fought it for 19 months before the good Lord decided to call him home. He was a month from his fourth birthday. With that same faith we had when losing all our possessions helped sustain us with the loss of our most important possession, our child. Then is occurred to us, he belonged to God and God was gracious enough to allow us to have him those wonderful 3 years and 11 months. Floods and fires are bad and losing possessions are bad but not when you put it all in the proper prospective. We were in our 20’s hen and now that we are in our 50’s we can look back and remember how we stood together and worked out way back. We now live in a beautiful brick ranch in South Salem and have been since February of 1986. We drive back to that lot at 88 McDivitt Rd. from time to time and remember how we started our lives together. No other mobile home has ever been placed back on that lot but the last one that was there was filled with lots of love and happiness and memories.
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Courtesy of David Bradford.