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Revisiting The People Of Colorado State University Affected By The Flood Of July 28, 1997

Thursday, July 16, 1998

Note to editors: Colorado State University introduced to the public the individuals below in the days following the flood. Those individuals were asked for progress reports six months and one year after the disaster. Interested media are invited to contact the individuals for interviews, using the phone numbers provided below.

PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR RON WILLIAMS RECOVERS DAMAGED MATERIAL July 1998 (In early August, the philosophy department will move into permanent offices on the second floor of Eddy Hall.)

A year after the flood, Ron Williams was looking at a Tibetan painting on the wall of his small, makeshift office in the University Services Building, temporary housing for the philosophy department. Ironically, the painting, which depicted Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, had been completely submerged in flood water. But restoration had brought back the central figure of the god in all its ferocity, bordered by 10 different figures representing its incarnations.

"Like most people, I thought disasters were things that happened to other people," Williams said. "And for most of my life they did."

Williams saved other artwork in addition to the painting of Shiva, which he had purchased in Kathmandu. He also had hand- washed many floppy disks and managed to save the material stored on them, and dried a lot of notes - about eight, three-ring binders full of valuable material.

Although the loss of more than 2,000 slides he'd taken all over the world was particularly disappointing for him, Williams said one of the hardest aspects of the flood was the long hours he worked alongside many other members of the department to recover from the disaster. Countless hours were spent hanging individual sheets of paper to dry, reordering books, searching for former students who had old class handouts and notes and sending out inquiries for unpublished manuscripts and other material he'd given to people.

"On one hand I lost much more than I can ever recover, but I was surprised by how many friends came through for me - I even received a copy of my Ph.D. dissertation from a friend to whom I'd given a copy 20 years ago. It showed up in the mail one day. He said he'd heard about the flood and assumed I'd lost the dissertation. There were some wonderful things like that that happened and I'm quite grateful."

January 1998

Six months after the flood, Williams still was working on recovering from the flood, but he did manage to cut back the long hours a bit.

Williams saved about 800 out of 3,000 slides he'd taken in countries all over the world. He lost most of his collection of video documentaries and films, but fortunately his research tapes of Indian and Japanese rituals were archived by the Office of Instructional Services. One tape, important to his research in collaboration with philosophy Professor James Boyd, was partially restored.

In all, Williams lost about $67,000 worth of written and taped materials, files and artwork in the flood. Insurance will cover some of the cost, but even considering that assistance, Williams said the losses range far beyond monetary values.

"It was a semester to forget," he said. "But we got through it somehow and I guess it's time to let go of what was lost. The philosophy department received large donations of standard philosophical works and texts following the flood, and I am very grateful to have received many books and some financial help from friends and the university."

July 1997

Williams, a Colorado native who lives in Rist Canyon, housed most of his 33 years of material in his office in Eddy Hall to keep his books and other teaching and research materials safe from fire or other catastrophes.

"Some people wondered how I could possibly have stored 2,200 books in my office, but I made special floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for them," he said. "About 80 percent of my books submerged in the flood are out of print. Others were large-format art books with color plates." Along with books, Williams lost research material, decades of class notes, students' files, graduate material and artwork.

Shortly after the flood, Williams said, "I'm working 12 to 14 hours a day all week long trying to salvage some of my material. Overall, it's a heartbreaking loss, but it offers us a chance for a new start. I'm staying upbeat. It puts a new perspective on what's important, and I think we're very fortunate to have come through the flood with no deaths at the university."

Call Ron Williams at (970) 491-6887.


A year ago, the venerable Steinway piano in the student center theater was found floating upside-down in murky flood water.

But during the early months of 1998, Connie Lane helped pick out a new piano in New York with Janet Landreth from the music program. Coincidentally, the women happened to meet one of the senior members of the Steinway family.

"We were in a beautiful, elegant room with 10 Steinways, and Janet had whittled her decision down to two pianos," Lane said. "We were listening to her play when a man in a bow tie came in and said, 'I've been listening for 45 minutes to all of you having such a good time - can I join you?' The man turned out to be Henry Steinway.

"I asked if he could autograph the piano, and he did so with pleasure."

The Steinway Concert Grand Model D piano, complete with Steinway's signature near the strings, was delivered to the theater in mid-February. The piano already has had some good use, Lane said.

"It was such a pleasure to listen to Janet play and talk so knowledgeably about pianos when we were in New York," Lane said. "She picked the one with the richest tone - it made us melt."

In addition to the new piano, the theater's $500,000 Wurlitzer organ, which was partially submerged, now has been fully refurbished. A new movie screen and speakers augment a new, $100,000 sound system and 35 lighting instruments in the theatre.

"I feel like we have a brand new theatre to offer the entire community," Lane said.

January 1998

"It seems like the flood was years ago," said Connie Lane. "Or yesterday, depending on your mood."

Lane, who after the flood became technical services coordinator for the student center, was excited to see the theater open for the first time in mid-January for a veterinary medicine conference. It was the first event to be held in the refurbished theater since the flood hit.

"As coordinator of various and sundry post-flood projects at the student center, the most exciting part for me was turning over the theater to technical crews so they could start setting up for events. It's such a great feeling. I can't wait to see dancers using the new stage floor. Senior students, too, will be able to enjoy their last semester watching movies in the comfort of the newly refurbished theater."

Throughout the semester, lighting, sound and stage equipment will be shipped and installed, and plans are under way for a grand opening.

"It's going to be a great time," Lane said. "We have a lot to celebrate."

July 1997

The wall of water that smashed through the west doors of the Lory Student Center almost caught several workers by surprise. In the early evening on July 28, staff members were trying to mop up what they thought were a series of irritating leaks in the building caused by normal rainstorms.

At first, the workers couldn't see the water rising on the west doors of the building because it was dark outside.

"At 8 p.m., we were mopping up water coming in," said Connie Lane, manager of what was formerly known as the game room. "It didn't seem like an unusual storm, but we thought maybe the building had structural problems, because water was seeping in through the walls at the barrel vault entrance.

"We got a shop vac out, and we were emptying it for a third time when we saw the water blowing through the bottom panels of the doors. The hallway filled instantly with 3-1/2 or 4 feet of water. We got out of there."

But on the way out, a staff member thought there might be other people in the building, so they made their way through rapidly rising water to make sure everybody was accounted for. Several people, in fact, were led safely out of the building.

"It was unbelievable, how fast the building flooded," Lane said.

Call Connie Lane at (970) 491-1177.

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