Support surges for Agnes flood film; let's keep it flowing
|The Times Leader - January 24, 2011|
By Alan K. Stout
SIX MONTHS ago, I wrote a commentary for The Times Leader's editorial page to commemorate the 38th anniversary of Tropical Storm Agnes and the ensuing flooding that destroyed much of the Wyoming Valley.
At the time, I expressed a desire to make a definitive, all-encompassing film on Agnes that would document exactly what our residents went through in June 1972 and how gallantly they fought to overcome what was then called the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.
Today, plans for The Agnes Anniversary Project, as we have named it, are in motion. And at its center is that film, which we have simply titled "Agnes." It is our feeling that the word - at least here in Northeastern Pennsylvania - needs no further explanation or subtitles. The project team includes Richard Briggs, producer/director; Tony Brooks, historical consultant; Anthony Mussari, consultant/narrator; and Frank J. Pasquini, funding consultant. Their respective biographies can be viewed at www.agnes1972.com.
I am proud to be working with these men on this important endeavor.
Since we first proposed the idea, much work has been done. We have worked with news archivists at the CBS, NBC and ABC networks and have unearthed some remarkable footage of Agnes that probably hasn't been seen in nearly 39 years. We have discussed the project with WNEP-TV, WVIA-TV, WBRE-TV and WYOU-TV, all of which have offered support and use of archived material.
We have reached out to the original publishers of four pictorial books on Agnes and all have granted us permission to use photos from those books in the film. We have discussed the project with state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, state Sen. Lisa Baker and Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tom Leighton. All have been supportive.
We spoke before members of the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, which immediately voted to make a donation to the project. The Luzerne County Historical Society did the same. The Times Leader published an article two weeks ago on the goals of the "Agnes" film, and Sue Henry at WILK radio recently asked us to appear on her show to discuss the project.
We have been encouraged by the interest and support. This has been especially evident since we unveiled the "Agnes" film trailer a few weeks ago on our Facebook page. Within days, the number of followers on the page reached several thousand. Older people expressed appreciation for the project. Younger people expressed shock at what they'd seen in the trailer. Hundreds of viewers posted comments. Some began to contact us, offering to share their photographs, home videos and stories.
It has been inspiring.
As the project gained momentum, I was reminded of a moment I had last summer when talks about the film first began. I'd gone for a long bike ride from my home on the West Side toward South Wilkes-Barre and Hanover Township, where I had lived as a young boy at the time of Agnes. About midway through my journey, the sky opened up and a heavy rain began to fall. I took refuge, of all places, under a covering at the River Common. It was a hot day with a strong, warm breeze, and that - combined with the pouring rain - made it feel quite tropical. On my iPod was some of the timepiece music, circa 1972, that I'd hoped to include in the "Agnes" film. And as I watched the rain splash upon the river while listening to those songs, I felt as if the past was speaking to me. And I felt compelled to try and make the project a reality.
Now, I am starting to feel as if Northeastern Pennsylvania is speaking as well. Today, we are certain that the people of this region want to see this documentary and that they share our feelings on its historical and educational value.
It would seem time is on our side, as we hope to finish the film by June 2012 - in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of Agnes. But that only applies if we can get working. And right now the project is still in great need of funding. To learn how you can help, visit www.agnes1972.com. And if you are on Facebook, consider becoming a friend of The Agnes Flood Anniversary Project.
With the support of local officials, businesses and residents, we will make this film. And we will ensure that the legacy of Agnes and the great efforts to overcome it put forth by our parents and our grandparents will be properly documented for generations to come.