ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — In 1972, Barbara Trimmer lived on James Street in Elmira. Overnight, her home was inundated with water. 50 years later, Trimmer reflected on how she rebuilt and recovered.
“The city of Elmira really has never come back,” said Trimmer.
On June 23, 1972, Elmira, and the many parts of the Twin Tiers, felt the brunt of Hurricane Agnes. The remnants of the storm left upwards of six feet of water in its wake. According to the Chemung County Historical Society, the storm caused an estimated $291.2 million worth of property damage. It also forced approximately 15,000 Elmirans from their homes.
Barbara Trimmer, now in her 80’s, remembers that fateful night vividly.
“We went about bringing everything out of the basement that we could,” said Trimmer. “We piled it up as high as we could, thinking we were going to get surface water.”
She evacuated to a nearby friend’s house on Holden Road.
“They were kind enough to take us in,” said Trimmer. “We spent the night. Everybody had been trying to reach me to find out where we were. They did not know where we were because we didn’t have cell phones back then.”
The following morning, Trimmer was told how bad the flooding was on James Street.
“It was a matter of looking at the house and seeing just how bad it was,” said Trimmer. “And as you can tell from the pictures, it was pretty bad.”
Now, the work began. Trimmer spent the following days cleaning up mud and debris.
“You were so busy you didn’t think too much,” said Trimmer. “You just do your job or try to clean up the mess. They had us sign up for a HUD trailer. They finally delivered it which was a godsend for us. We were able to drill a hole into our cellar wall and bring the electric and water from the house into the trailer.”
Over the next few months, Trimmer got an SBA loan to help replace everything in her home. After a year, she was able to move back into the house.
“I cried when they brought the HUD trailer and I cried when they took it, but it was a godsend to have it available to us,” said Trimmer. “It was a busy, busy summer. I’m sure we weren’t the only family going through it.”
From that point on, just the sound of rain caused her anxiety. However, she was a survivor.
“When I see forest fires, people lose their homes completely to ashes and don’t have anything to rebuild,” said Trimmer. “We were fortunate in a way that we still had a home so we could rebuild. Keep going. I guess that’s the main thing, you just try to keep going and look on the brighter side.”