A new documentary by the Center for Rural Strategies, “East Kentucky Flood,” is now available for streaming on the Daily Yonder website.
The 30-minute film tells the story of the July 2022 flood from the perspectives of some of the people who endured it. The storm killed 45 people and displaced thousands, upending lives in some of the most economically distressed counties in America.
The stories in “East Kentucky Flood” include the life-saving actions of a firefighter in Whitesburg and the rebuilding of a longstanding grocery store in Letcher County. They reveal not just what happened July 2022, but what lies ahead for communities across East Kentucky.
Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies (which publishes the Daily Yonder), said the organization’s office in Whitesburg came within a few inches of being flooded.
“Because the water missed us, we felt like that was a message — we should be doing something with what the fates were telling us,” Davis said in “Everywhere Radio,” a Rural Assembly podcast, last week.
Davis, who has been part of making movies about Appalachia and other rural communities for nearly half a century, said helping local people tell their stories about the flood felt like one way the Center for Rural Strategies could contribute to the region’s recovery.
“People had seen something Biblical,” he said. “It was important to just turn on the camera and let them tell their stories. … That’s what we felt our job was.”
Mimi Pickering, another veteran filmmaker who was part of the documentary’s production team, said people she helped interview seemed compelled to tell their stories.
“Somebody said to me, ‘Well, you’re asking people to talk about the flood. Is that triggering or very difficult for them?’ But in fact, I think the opposite is often true,” Pickering said. “All the folks we talked to, they wanted to tell their story. They really wanted to let people know what had happened, what they’d experienced.”
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