Monday, December 29, 2014

The Last Chance?

On Christmas Eve, a cousin called me, and we got to reminiscing. Another cousin had recently been hospitalized with health issues, and it is clear to all of us that time is passing much too quickly.

We had tried to see this cousin twice in recent years as he lives about three hours from us, but circumstances intervened and we had to cancel both visits.

We talked about the possibility of a family reunion next year, especially as one cousin is moving out of the New York area (I live in upstate New York, but was born in New York City) probably to Texas, and we would want to do this before he moves.

It may be a last chance for a reunion of the New York area branch of my "cousins". 

Maybe it isn't strange at all that, this weekend, I took advantage of a free offer on a normally pay-genealogy site.

This reminded me of a couple of posts I've written - one, this summer, and the other, in August of 2012.

Have you ever organized a family reunion?

Two Reunions (July 2014)

Two years ago, on the first Friday of August.  It is two years since some first cousins and their families gathered at my home in Westover, near Johnson City, New York for a mini family reunion.  We haven't had one since and I don't know if we ever will have one again.

After the reunion was over, I wrote this blog post.  It's hard to believe two years have passed since the reunion, and almost three years since a flood that devastated my neighborhood, and other parts of the Triple Cities of Upstate New York.

It's been a time of recovery and a time of hope. A time of memory (the topic of the August NaBloPoMo),  A time of ReUNION.

Slowly, the flood ruined houses are finally being demolished. Much (not all) of the land will be turned into green spaces, never to be developed again.
Former BAE Industries, Westover, NY, July 3, 2014

The ruined factory I speak of (still not demolished) once occupied by BAE Industries and 1300 workers, still waits for its date with the bulldozer.  At one time it was the largest wood framed structure in the United States.  Its history is forgotten by so many.

But on the other hand, since I wrote this, at least one new business has started where another one had closed - a seed of hope.

And our town, the town of Union, has been planning a gigantic planning project, the ReUNION Project 2020.  There are a lot of high hopes for our area.  Time will tell what positive things will come out of this disaster.

This is the post I wrote after the cousins reunion, on the eve of the first anniversary of the flood.

On the Cover of the Rolling....Flood Book (August 2012)

It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame.  Sometimes, that fame is a welcome thing.  Don't you want to be famous?  Doesn't everyone?

Sometimes, it is your neighborhood that becomes famous.

Many times, you just as soon wish it had never happened.
That's what I wish, every time I leave my house near Johnson City, NY and walk or travel more than about three or four blocks.

I pass buildings that became vacant 11 months ago today, and are still vacant.  Some don't have interior walls.  Some are still filled with debris.  Some have "For Sale" signs.  Some still have bushes encrusted with flood mud.

There is the former credit union building.  The former day care center.  The former doctor's practice. The former 600,000. square foot factory building that once held 1300 workers.  The former adult day care center.  The sagging houses that will never be occupied again.  One entire street is almost devoid of occupants, with just a handful of hardy souls trying to reclaim their lives.

The out of business and for sale tire store whose mechanics nourished my son's love of car repair especially touches my heart.  The former.....the former.....

Many businesses have reopened.  The Home Depot.  The Ollies.  The window contractor.  The Aldi.  Our local pediatrician. A dentist.  A massage therapist.   My beloved Unicorn Electronics.  Wild Birds Unlimited.

We must look towards the future and I usually do, but today I look back one last time.

This past weekend, I had several cousins visit from the New York City area, Pennsylvania, and (by Skype) Florida, the midwest and Texas.  We had a lot of fun, and we talked about many things.  Still, a certain book I had taken out of the library drew a number of fascinated readers.  They paged through the pictures while my young adult son provided the narration.

One of the cousins graduated last year from Binghamton University.  She looked at pictures of places she knew. She had graduated in May of 2011 and the pictures were taken during the period of September 7, 8 and 9, 2011 during the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee,  It was a book about the flood.  If she had still been going to the college, she may well have volunteered at the Events Center, which became one of the evacuation centers.

My neighborhood is on the cover of the flood book.  My house is even visible (no, not telling you which one) in the aerial photo.

Our neighborhood of Westover, along with several other areas (some of which suffered much worse than we did) have become a symbol of the flood.  Let us name them:  Owego. Castle Gardens.  Twin Orchards.  The Southside of Binghamton.  There are others.  I really don't know why our neighborhood was chosen for its 15 minutes of fame, but it was.

When I first found out our neighborhood would be on the cover, it was emotionally very hard.  It was just a couple of months after the flood, and my feelings were still too raw.  But, when I saw the book at the library this past July, I knew it was time.  Time to put the flood where it belonged, in the past.

Time to read the book.  Time to move on.

So we looked at the book, and then went on to much happier things. We had such a good time that my sides ached the next day.

I wish the flood had never happened.  I wish I could have had the power to prevent the storm from doing what it did to our part of upstate NY and parts of several other states.  But wishes have no power.  Only actions.  We have come so far, and we should be proud.

Next month will be the one year anniversary.  I will write about the flood recovery one last time.  And then I hope to move on permanently to other blog topics.

It is time.


  1. It's always hard to celebrate something that came with greatly difficulty. Good luck in 2015.

  2. I would love to have a family reunion - but our family is so spread apart that I can't imagine it ever happening. Too bad. :(

  3. My mom side meet the second weekend in July. But we have two problems with ours one is some of the local kin don't show up..Like a class reunion the local people don't come but those who live away shows up.
    It finding a place to hold all of us...My great grandparents had I believe is 15 offsprings, although all of didn't reproduce. Then my grand parents had 12 kids and raised 10. One of my uncle never married. So 9 of them went and had a family...It basically a potluck type...Coffee is on

  4. We had one in July of 2012. My sister organized it but she thought everyone would come...she had high hopes. I think there were over 150 people included (although she made the blanket invitation by Facebook and not everyone is on Facebook, not to mention that some people won't go unless the get a personal note or call). I tried to tell her that I didn't think more than 20 would attend. Too far away and no money or transportation for most. And other reasons. In the end, she was greatly disappointed when only about 24 people showed up. She says she'll never even go to one again! I drove 800 miles to be there and I would do it again. It's difficult, yes, but I think it's worth the try. Just don't set your expectations too high.


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