July 20-Aug. 2, 2006
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Tom Picciano
Deacon Tom Picciano reflects on experiences during the flood
Endwell — The Susquehanna River has come near Christ the King Church many times. But the June 2006 flood marked the first time in the 57-year history of the parish that it actually came inside the church building. Fifteen hours of soaking rain pushed the river to a stop at the front door. The church itself was untouched, but groundwater came up from the drains and the river flowed under the side doors into the basement.
Many items had been removed before the waters, including upholstered chairs, a rug and anything electrical and easily moveable. Chairs and tables were stacked high. Other items were left on the counters because the water had never come in before.
The Founder’s Hall was a place where people of the neighborhood came following the flood of April of 2005 for food, clothing and information. That wouldn’t be possible this time. The high-water mark was more than four feet in the hall. As a few inches of water had crept in and settled at first, there was time to call the Diocesan Office of Risk Management. Bill Doran’s calm voice and reassuring words held through, even when we told him later we were dealing with feet, not inches. As the river started to recede the next day, so did the water downstairs. The Rev. Art Penird, pastor of the Endwell Christian Union Church, brought a pump. Art and his wife Dorothy’s efforts lowered the water nine inches in three hours. Art also waded into about three feet of water to remove several pictures from the walls.
The following day, the bulk of the water had drained out. Three parishioners walked into an eerie darkness to document the devastation. Mud was everywhere. In the bathrooms, two inches of sewage had come up through the toilets. Chairs and tables littered the floor. A huge freezer was lifted up and onto its back. Shelves in the sacristy supply closet were dumped over, but three small statues there were barely touched. A big wooden table was tossed upward and rested on the soda machine. Yet, four feet away, the statue of Christ the King hadn’t moved an inch off its pedestal. Within hours many came to assist parishioners. The Holy Name Society from Our Lady of Angels, members of the Endicott Knights of Columbus, and the Franciscans from the Town of Maine. Together, they slogged through the mud, and recovered and disposed of items. By the end of that first Saturday, a professional cleaning crew from Service Master was able to extract most of the water and mud. All this went on despite a lack of electricity. A borrowed generator powered the organ, microphones and one work light for the weekend Masses which were held as scheduled.
During Mass, Father Tom Hobbes made note of three visitors in the church. The outdoor nativity scene, Mary, Joseph and Jesus in hard plastic, were removed from a closet as the flood waters rose. The remained in a pew, just where they’d been left. Pictures of the first two pastors, Father Charles Aylesworth and Msgr. Leonard Fries sat in front of the altar. In between was a picture painted by a friend of Brother Peter Daino, a parishioner serving in Africa. Behind that was the wooden board with the honor roll of donors from the founding of the parish in 1949. All survived the floodwaters.
Christ the King Parish has seen losses before. In the late 1980s, a fire damaged much of the sanctuary. A decade earlier, lightning struck the peak of the roof, knocking the statue of Christ the King off its perch.
A parishioner said the other day that the statue was fixed and repainted. That’s the same statue that was unmoved by the Susquehanna River in the flood of June 2006.