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1972 Flood 'Remembrance and Renewal'

June 10, 2012, 5:28 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

1972 Flood 'Remembrance and Renewal'

Only 20 percent of the Rapid City population was living in the city 40 years ago when a devastating flood wiped out nearly 800 homes and claimed 238 lives.

All week former Rapid City officials and the survivors of that 1972 flood have been re-living the tragedy so the rest of the population doesn't forget.

It culminated Saturday night with a 'Remembrance and Renewal' service at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

In front of families of flood victims and survivors, Rapid City leaders from four decades ago recounted the night when torrential rain terrorized their city.

"This tragedy taught us a very hard lesson; we as elected leaders are elected to protect the public," former Rapid City Council Member Larry Lytle said.

One of the more somber moments of the service of 'Remembrance and Renewal' came when the crowd paused for a half an hour to listen to the names of the 238 lives that were lost.

Among those who died were three Rapid City firefighters.

"Tonight I stand here on behalf of the 136 men and women of the Rapid City Fire Department and personally than those 79 firefighters from 1972 for their acts of heroism and bravery that were displayed during the flood and in the days after," Rapid City Fire Chief Mark Maltaverne said.

One Rapid City police officer also died during the disaster.

"I only hope if we are called in our time as these men and women were in 1972 that we can perform as well as they did," Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender said.

But the service remembering the flood also focused on how Rapid City bounced back, not just by focusing on the policies to restrict building in the floodplain and the improved warning system across the city, but also by recognizing the residents who never gave up.

"The survivors and this recovery did not start at the mayor's desk," former Rapid City Mayor Don Barnett said. "It did not start at the desk of the city council. It started in the spine and the character of the average citizen of Rapid City who would not sit back and let our community go down the drain after that terrible poke in the nose."

And that is why a community devastated 40 years ago is not just remembering what happened but is also taking pride in the city's renewal.

Click here to watch the story.

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