'We Were All In There Together': Strangers Share Compassion In The Flood Of '93 During the Great Flood of 1993, the mutual efforts of a then-prisoner and a beauty shop owner to protect a tiny Illinois town briefly brought them together. After 25 years, the two reconnect.
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'We Were All In There Together': Strangers Share Compassion In The Flood Of '93

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'We Were All In There Together': Strangers Share Compassion In The Flood Of '93

'We Were All In There Together': Strangers Share Compassion In The Flood Of '93

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOEL KING, HOST:

All right. It's time now for StoryCorps. Twenty-five years ago this week, Greg Yance arrived in the tiny town of Niota, Ill., on the banks of the Mississippi River. He was serving a sentence for a drug conviction. And he was part of a group of inmates sent to shore up the town's levee. This was during the great flood of 1993, when the Mississippi and Missouri rivers overflowed, causing one of the most devastating floods in U.S. history. Greg recently went back to Niota for the first time since the flood, and he reconnected with Neoma Farr, a local beauty shop owner who he met back then.

GREG YANCE: They let us know that we're going to help with sandbagging, really didn't know what sandbagging was. I was just happy that we were getting off the compound. And when we came up to the river the first time, I put my hands in it and put it on my face.

NEOMA FARR: I seen how hard you worked, like it was your home that you're trying to save. So I thought, at lunchtime, I could go over and help feed everybody. You guys were so young. And I had children your age. And I thought about if these were my children, how would I want them treated? So I treated you like you were mine.

YANCE: We felt that. That's why when this town flooded, it crushed us.

FARR: Yeah. I know that when the levee broke, you guys were all upset because you didn't think you did your job.

YANCE: I couldn't look at nobody.

FARR: But you worked your tails off. We had so much respect for you guys. It wasn't like, well, if they would've worked harder or faster. We were all in there together. So how does it feel for you to be back here after 25 years?

YANCE: Man, I've been wanting to do this for a long time. The flood, it just changed my life. When we were doing all this stuff, made us feel that we had a purpose. What I felt when I was sandbagging and helping people, that kind of compassion, I just never been in a situation that complete strangers helping each other.

FARR: I get that.

YANCE: I mean, it's like one of the things I put on the pedestal of my life. So I didn't know if I wanted to come here and mess with that. You know, you got your four-leaf clover, and you know off a leaf, and you're like, man, I shouldn't have ever touched it. But I'm glad I came.

FARR: Back then, we didn't get to meet you as a person. I never got to know anybody's name. I'm just so excited that I get to meet you as a man, as your name is Greg. And I'm just happy to meet you.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALAN SINGLEY'S "YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE")

KING: That was Neoma Farr and Greg Yance remembering the great flood of 1993. Neoma still runs her beauty shop in town. That's where this interview was recorded. And Greg now works as a factory machine operator in Rockford, Ill. Their conversation will be archived at the Library of Congress.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALAN SINGLEY'S "YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE")

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