Vicky Bernia


Written Memory


June 10, 2012


Joe’s VS KOA

“Dad, let’s stay at Joe’s Camping Resort,” begged Paul.
“Paul, you know we always stay at KOA,” answered Dad.
“But Dad, Joe’s has a pool and KOA doesn’t,’ whined Paul.
“Please Dad, we love to swim,” I added my two cents’ worth.
“DAMN IT!!” hollered Dad.
“What’s wrong?” Mom asked alarmed.
“I didn’t release the emergency brake and I don’t want to drive into Rapid City. I’m afraid the brakes won’t hold.” Dad was mad at himself.
“Joe’s is up ahead, Dad. We can stop there.” Paul was smiling, he would be swimming.
Dad pulled into Joe’s and registered. The campground was tiered and graveled. You could see Rapid City down below in the valley. Mom made dinner and then we went swimming for a short time. As dusk approached so did heavy dark rain clouds.
It poured! Inside our trailer we could hardly hear anyone talk because the rain hit the metal roof so hard. We had our small TV on and severe storm warnings were broadcast. Dad was worried and Mom thought we were going to die.
We awoke to a thick and heavy fog. We also awoke to disastrous news. The dam had broke and flooded the city. Watching the local news was nightmarish. They listed the missing and known dead. Over 250 people perished in the flood. The authorities were asking for any and all help.
At 12:30 p.m. Dad received clearance from the Highway Patrol to go through Rapid City. We were on our way to an air force base to visit friends.
We loaded up and down the hill we went. Dad was nervous and we three kids were told to keep quiet. Dad slowed the car for the upcoming red light at the bottom of the hill.
We had never seen anything like this! Debris all over and a mobile home sales park where the mobile homes lay like scattered match sticks.
“Get off the streets!” screamed a man running down the street.
“The dam has broken!” another yelled to pedestrians.
“We’re getting the hell out of here,” Dad said forcefully, while grabbing tightly to the steering wheel as if death itself was behind him.
My eyes about bugged out of my head. My brother, sister, and I watched the scenes out of the window. Cars went racing by and we saw some men in the back of a truck grabbing people on the street and pulling them in. People were running all over wildly.
We made it to our friends and heard that the dam had not broke again. It had been a false alarm.
While at our friends, we heard on the news that all the campers who stayed at the KOA had been swept away in the tidal surge and presumed dead.
Out family will always be thankful that Paul wanted to go swimming and Dad left on the emergency brake. Someone was watching over us.



“Vicky Bernia,” Flood of 1972, accessed August 17, 2022,