It was supposed to be a weekend of fun, but the rain on a warm June night in Rapid City started and didn't stop.
Keith Goehring had a weekend leave from National Guard training. He and his buddies had plans for what 20-somethings do.
“We said, ‘Well, where's the action at tonight?’ and they said, ‘It's in two places. One is Canyon Lake Club, or the Holiday Inn,"’ Goehring said.
One of those was on low ground, the other was high. Even today Goehring knows that a spur of the moment decision to go to the Holiday Inn may have been the best choice of his life.
“We must have sat in the car for close to a half hour watching it rain. It just poured, poured, poured,” Goehring said.
But Goehring and his friends went to sleep. They stayed high and dry. In the morning he found out the group were among the lucky ones.
“All it was was a wall of water. Silent,” Goehring said. “There was no warning. A wall of water doesn't make any noise. It just moved down the canyon and took everything it its path.”
For days after that, the National Guardsmen put their training to work, helping first with medical supplies and then finding bodies buried in the debris.
“[We were] looking and searching,” he said, “walking up and down that Rapid Creek there on the east side of Jackson Boulevard to see what we could find.”
But he knows, had he made a different choice and headed to Canyon Lake on that night, he may have been the one someone else searched for.
“But by the grace of God, we chose the Holiday Inn,” he said.
Two hundred thirty-eight people died during the flood. To this day, the disaster still serves as an example for other cities not to build in flood-prone areas.