A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices


Buffalo Creek Survivor Testimonies

"It was a nightmare"

Betty Tackett

I took my children out of the house, and my husband ran across the railroad track to make sure the neighbors weren’t still in bed. He told me to take the children up off of the main road. When I got the kids in the car, we lived in front of the ball park, when I was pulling out of the drive way there was a wall of water 20 feet high coming across the ball park. It took out bridges houses and everything.

It was a nightmare; you’d see bodies and houses torn apart. You just can’t describe it. We had no warning whatsoever; even to get out or anything.

The man that worked with my husband took my kids to his house. We started walking the next day to get out of there. Me and my husband weren’t with our children at that time. I didn’t lose none of my family and that was the most important thing. We were given help through the Red Cross. It was hard getting started again.

The coal company knew they were in the wrong. They were checking on that dam the day before it happened but they still didn’t tell anybody to get out of there. They just let it go. It had rained a week before. It wasn’t nobodies fault really, I guess it was just God’s will, but the coal company knew before time that there was danger, so the people should have been warned. The coal company is more responsible for it than God because they were the ones that built it, they didn’t give out any information on it, so I’d put more responsibility on them then I would God. There was 125 people killed in that flood and 52 of them were my neighbors and friends…so I hold the coal company responsible.

"The guys said the dam was going to be alright"

Uhle Adkins

It rained that whole week and the creek was up real big, on that Friday night we stayed up all night watching that creek. The guys came down earlier and said that dam was going to be allright -- it wasn’t a problem.

It was 5 till 8 and that’s when the power went off, we went down the road three quarters a mile and a trailer was washed off, floated down. I walked to where my house was at, and I looked at nothing, railroad tracks was twisted like pretzels, I walked back to where I did live and there was nothing.

They said the dam was gonna break and he said I don’t believe that, so they went back to bed and him and his two children perished. One of his children was one of the kids that was never found.

One of my friends told me if that dam ever breaks it will everything out from here to Man, and he was right. There was a lot of force behind it and a lot of water. We didn’t get anything from the coal companies, a lot of people sued them but I didn’t, I didn’t lose my family I just lost my home.

‘We heard this terrible noise... the pressure was so forceful that it held all the water together and it moved just like a snake ...

Gertie Moore

Everybody just thought they were crying wolf again, to tell you the truth, had we been living on the main strip, we would have been gone.

We heard this terrible noise and the power went off. We were on the front porch and coming out of the main holler there was a blue house riding on top of this giant wave, and I didn’t know it at the time but the Dillon family was in there.

When we saw what had happened I froze on the front porch and Arlene Johnson said hit the hills and everybody just ran. ... . The water shot down the road, the pressure was so forceful that it held all the water together and it moved just like a snake, it’d take out one house and skip another house.

(One man) would come in and laugh at them for leaving, he went that morning to get raincoats for the men to work on the hill, and when he left he ran into the water and he shot up Ding’s holler and when they found him he was wandering around babbling. You can only imagine that your word would have sent everybody home, and saved them.

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