Flood leaves reporter, native with new views

Chris Mangan

When I left Brookings less than two years ago, my future was uncertain. I was interning at the Capital Journal in my hometown of Pierre with no idea what I was going to do after that summer.

Luckily things worked out and I was offered the sports editor position at the end of the summer. It was my dream job. I loved every minute of it and things were going smoothly until the summer of 2011 when one of the most difficult times of my life occurred — the Oahe Flood of 2011.

I remember the first day when I realized things were going to be serious. I attended a press conference with city officials from Pierre and Fort Pierre with my sister, Heather, who was also working at the Capital Journal at that time. That’s when things started to hit home that this wasn’t going to be a small event.

What I deemed a passing thought turned into a two-month battle. It was a very difficult event for me to cover because Pierre was my hometown. The place I worked throughout high school was right there fighting the Missouri River every single day. The Capital Journal’s building was only blocks from the river and we had hay bales surrounding the building to protect us.

There were so many times I wanted to stop when I was out taking photos and ask people — people I knew all my life that were having their homes threatened — if they needed help. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that. It was heartbreaking to stop people that were sandbagging and ask them if I could interview them for a few minutes.

There were several days that I would work until 11 p.m. and go sandbag through most of the night, only to wake up the next day and do it all over again. It was physically and mentally exhausting; there were nights I was looking forward to covering a 13 to 14 year old Teener baseball game because it took my mind off the flood.

Watching people come out in droves to help people they didn’t know made me proud to be part of this community. I was surprised by how many people would be out sandbagging at 1 a.m., but it is what people in this community and this state do — they take care of their neighbors.

One of the best things about the flood was the people I worked with during it. I am so proud of the work that we did. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for us to work 12-hour days but no one complained. We knew what we were covering was — hopefully — a rare occurrence.

When I moved to Pierre I never thought I would cover a Missouri River flood; I didn’t think it was possible. It definitely changed me and my reporting skills for the better.