A Living Nightmare

Alma was floating down Broad Street – floating! It had to be a nightmare. Except the water splashing into the boat that day, March 25, 1913, felt too cold to be a dream.

For Columbus, the Great Flood of 1913 started when the Scioto River broke through wooden levees on the West Side. The area, known to be a flood plain, was of historic importance. The city of Franklinton was founded there before Columbus and later annexed to it.

Reading about it later in the Columbus Evening Dispatch confirmed for Alma the reality of the historic disaster that claimed her parents among the 93 Columbus residents who were killed. People rescued, sheltered and fed their fellow citizens. City Hall housed flood survivors. There had been no advance planning to meet such an extreme need; responses were on-the-spot.

It wasn’t as if there were no warning.  Severe weather had been occurring throughout the state and beyond, including torrential rains that began on March 23. Dayton was especially hard-hit, with 123 dead.

The National Red Cross came to Columbus, offering as much as the six-year-old orphan could absorb. She had a place to sleep, something warm to eat, an adult to lean on. But not the adults she cared about most. No, she had watched them go under those foul-smelling waters – go under, but not surface.

Bridges connecting the city’s east and west sides were wiped out. Hundreds of homes were destroyed. It wasn’t until 80 years later that anyone dared to focus development on the area that became known once again as Franklinton.

Three years later, on July 3, 1916, the nightmare all came back to Alma when the Columbus Chapter of the American Red Cross opened. She visited the new headquarters at 471 East Broad Street and met the first chairman, George W. Lattimer.

Like the buildings, some fragile psyches were irreparably ravaged, but Alma survived, body and soul. She married and her children grew up on the West Side, as she had. What was then known as the Greater Columbus Chapter of the American Red Cross was present to help meet human needs in the face of disaster.

Alma felt secure.  Surely she wouldn’t be asked to face such devastation again…would she?

Today the Central Ohio Chapter continues to meet the needs of local adults and children. With an emphasis on preparedness, response and recovery, the Chapter and The Ohio Buckeye Region help to ensure that there are plans in place and the city does not find itself unprepared, as it did in 1913.

2 thoughts on “A Living Nightmare

  1. I am puzzled as to why (especially in a donation emergency) the donation centers have limited hours. I work nights and Sundays. I don’t wake up until 2:00 p.m….just when the Lewis Center branch closes. also don’t understand why any hospital doesn’t have a 24 hour donation center. …tfalconcraig@aol.com


    1. Thank you so much for your interest in giving blood. In Central Ohio the Red Cross operates 7 blood donation centers and about 20 mobile blood drives each week day, and about 6 to 10 locations on the weekends. Each of these sites and mobile drives have varying hours. We try to accommodate different times of the day at different sites so that on any given day you may find an available location open to give blood. We don’t have enough staff to operate all sites all day long, so some have more morning hours and same have more evening hours. I’m sorry the Lewis Center site hours don’t fit in your schedule. We have other sites that are open as late as 7 p.m. The best way to find a site with times available for you is to search by your zip code at http://www.redcrossblood.org. Or you can call us at 1-800-RED CROSS and a staff person can help you find a site and time that works for you. Thank you again, and we apologize for the schedule inconvenience at the Lewis Center location.

      Rodney J. Wilson | External Communications Manager
      Biomedical Field Marketing and Communications
      American Red Cross
      995 East Broad Street, Columbus, OH 43205
      (614) 203-1891 (c) | (614) 253-2740 (front desk)
      Rodney.Wilson@redcross.org | RedCrossBlood.org
      Local web | http://www.RedCrossBlood.org/our-regions
      Twitter | [/www.redcrossblood.org/twitter-map]RedCrossBlood.org/twitter-map
      Facebook | http://www.facebook.com/RedCrossBlood


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