HUMAN SIDE OF THE DISASTER
STRANGE ESCAPES AND INCIDENTSóA NOVEL RESCUE CAR óFIGHT WITH DROWNING RATSó"SAVE THEM OR DIE."
As the story of the floods was told piecemeal by the thousands who crept by devious and desperate means out of the stricken districts the world was furnished with most dramatic and tragic tales involving suffering, courage, terror, and occasionally the meaner side of human nature that led to looting and vandalism by human coyotes. These latter were summarily dealt with and on the whole they were remarkably few in number.
It was a time to bring out the good in men and the records of the thousands of brave rescues and sacrifices made during the trying week of flood and storm stands as a monument to the inherent goodness of mankind.
Among the stories of suffering and thrilling events was that of a man who came into the Pennsylvania railroad station in West Dayton, where temporary Western Union headquarters had been established, and, seeing some bread on a table, exclaimed: "Thatís the first bread Iíve seen since Monday" He helped himself.
At Peru, Ind., a woman and two girls were loaded into a boat from the second story of a house. A boy eight years old was left behind. The mother was wild. She tried to turn back and get the boy, but the boat was filled to capacity and the lad was left behind.
Another case where a family were taken from their home and the daughter, a pretty child of ten, was missing. The father returned to the house, rescued the child, but when he returned the boat had been swept away by the swift current. A moment later the rush of waters engulfed the house.
Heroes unsung and unnamed were made in floodswept Dayton during the days when the waters were running the highest and when the lives of thousands of persons were imperiled. The stories as told speak voltimes for sturdy American manhood.
"Women and children first," was the Order that went out when the volunteer rescuers in boats first began their work. The order was obeyed to the letter. Women and children were first taken from the inundated houses. The men were left behind and told to swim. Many did swim to places of safety. Others could not swim and were lost to the world.
Babies saw the light of day for the first time during the dark days when Dayton was cut off from the world by the flood. In one church three babies were born in one afternoon. Another baby came into the world in a motor boat. Its mother was being rushed to a place of safety when the stork dropped down into the boat and left its tiny bundle.
Three hundred guests in the Algonquin Hotel were favored ones. They suffered little or no discomfort except from the cold. The water rose high about the hotel, but there was plenty of room on the upper floors for every one. Provisions and supplies were moved out of the danger zone as the waters were rising. Meals were served regularly.
Two men caught looting were taken before the chief of police by soldiers. "Donít bring looters to me," said the chief. "Kill them if you catch them looting."
Here is the way in which a number of persons were rescued from danger in West Dayton: A flat car weighted down with pig iron was run into the flooded zone on street car tracks. Six men went on the car; a hundred other men at the end of a steel cable furnished the motive power. Men, women and children were taken from submerged houses. Then the signal was given to haul away.
Rescuers Thursday afternoon saw a large frame house floating down the river tossed high in the waves and buffeted by the adverse currents. Four women were seen in the windows of the house. Near the Main street bridge the women were seen to wave their hands at the people on the banks. Then the floating house struck the bridge. For a moment the house was lost to sight. A little later it bobbed up below the bridge. But the faces of the women at the window were gone. They had met death just when they had almost reached safety.
A mother threw her boy from the window of a submerged house to boatmen who had drawn near. The child did not strike the boat. He fell into the water and was drowned. The mother was saved. A young husband was seen holding his wife, who was trying to throw herself into the flood. The woman was holding two small children in her arms. She had become crazed from exposure and fright. All were rescued.
Heartrending scenes were to be witnessed almost every minute as the rescued were being brought in. There were hundreds waiting at these places for some tidings of missing ones. Sometimes a mother was brought in. Her husband would see her and she would be clasped in his arms. Then he asked where the baby was. There would come a wail from the mother. The baby was not there; it had been lost.
A party of rescuers approaching a house about which the water was running five feet deep heard several shots fired in rapid succession. The rescuers shouted and a manís face appeared at a window. He had been shooting at a horde of rats that were trying to get on the dry upper floor.
A rescue party approached a submerged home in Dayton. A man, revolver in hand, leaned out of an upper story window. "Come here," the man commanded. "Come here or Iíll shoot. Iíve got a wife in this house and a baby that is only a few hours old. The little one came while the flood was on. They have both got to be taken out of here and quick. Now come on if you donít want to be shot." The mother, close to deathís door, was lowered into the boat by means of a rope, and was carried away to a place of safety. In her arms she carried her newly born babe. The father remained in the home.
August Schmidt was one of the heroes. He and his wife and two children were rescued. They had hung to the roof of their home for thirty hours. All of the time a cold, chilling wind was blowing; most of the time a heavy snow was falling. When the rescuers came upon them all were so chilled that they were unable to move a muscle. A little girl told the story: "When the water came into the house," she said, "we had to climb out on the roof. It was awful cold. Daddy held us or we would have fallen off into the water. He held us tight all the time and told me to be a brave little girl."
In one of the foreign settlements a father shot and killed his wife and four children. Then he jumped into the flood and was drowned.
A. J. Baird told the story of the marvelous escape of 150 men and women who were penned up in the City National Bank building.
"We were all right," he said, "until the fire came. We cut the elevator cables and attracted the attention of a boatman. He risked his life to come near the building. He pulled the cable over to the courthouse and both ends were made fast. Then in the glare of the burning buildings, every one of us, men and women, made our way, hand over hand, over the stretched cable to the old courthouse. Women went first. I believe every one got over in safety,"
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