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Editor’s Note: On Thursday, February 16, the Daily Yonder will host the digital premiere of “East Kentucky Flood,” a half-hour documentary about the historic 2022 flood that killed 45 people and displaced thousands. The documentary is a production of the Center for Rural Strategies, which publishes the Yonder. This clip from the documentary features Gwen Christon and Simon Christon, who are rebuilding the grocery store they lost in the flood.

From her car, Gwen Christon saw her Letcher County grocery store “in a river.”

“Even though you were looking at it you still couldn’t really believe that it was true,” she said. “I knew then that we were in trouble.”

Christon owns the IGA in Isom. The flood had overtaken the store, she said, the water swirling like river currents and roaring like the ocean.

When the water receded and she finally visited the store, Christon said she was in shock at the damage.

A GoFundMe quickly attracted donations. People gave money and left comments saying they remembered shopping there as kids and the staff giving them treats like suckers or cookies.

“It’ just good memories of coming somewhere where someone cares,” Christon said.

Father Jim Sichko, a Catholic priest from Lexington, took notice of their rebuilding efforts. He donated $20,000 on his first trip to Isom and $50,000 on his second.

A Baptist, Christon said she had never known a Catholic before Sichko.

“It shows us, too, that it don’t really matter what denomination you are. When it comes down to it, we all want the same thing,” said Simon Christon, Gwen’s son who also works at the IGA. “We all want to help and have a servant’s heart for one another.”

The Christons’ story is part of a Center for Rural Strategies documentary detailing the efforts of several East Kentucky communities to recover from the flash flood. 

“East Kentucky Flood: Some of the Stories,” will have its statewide broadcast premiere 10 p.m. Wednesday, February 15, 2023, on KET, Kentucky’s public television network, and will air other times throughout the month of February. The entire video will be available for streaming on the Daily Yonder on Thursday, February 16, 2023.

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