By John Grey
My grandfather says the trestle bridge just buckled when the locomotive crossed it. That train broke apart, and cars swerved, careened, toppled into the river. People screamed. They grabbed onto what they could as suitcases, strangers, crashed against their flailing bodies. One man's heart gave out before his carriage smashed the surface. Many drowned. The fireman went down in a swirl of flaming water. My grandfather knows every detail of the flood of 1953 and repeats them endlessly. He can point out the high marks on every building in town. He can name everybody who didn't survive. And yes, he remembers clearly the night that Mary English shot her husband with his hunting rifle. He can point out where the Bialosky boy drowned. And there's no need for floral cross embedded in the highway bank. He remembers who crashed there, the names, even the make of car. There's times, I really do believe, he lives for the dead. And he was in the war of course, more buddies killed in action than there are names in our telephone directory. You'd think he would forget some but he never does. He figures people spend a lot more time dead than they ever do living. And those caught up in their own lives don't bother with an old man like him. It's only people no longer here who can spare the time.
Photo by Austin Smart