“Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away…” Song of Solomon 8:7
On November 6, 1977, 176 million gallons of water plowed its way from a broken earthen dam to a narrow gorge. Between the dam and the gorge lay Toccoa Falls, a 186 foot drop into a small canyon. It is said that the water may have raged over the falls at 150 miles per hour! Once inside the gorge, the funneled wall of water reached 30 feet high, moving between 30 – 60 miles per hour. Between the volume and the velocity of the swiftly moving water, the flood decimated a college campus, killing 39 people, half of which were young children.
This amazing story of the Toccoa Falls Dam break in November of 1977 is chronicled in the small book Dam Break in Georgia by K. Neill Foster. This short read is amazing not because it tells the story of the horrific events of that forsaken tragedy, but because it tells the story of how a community of Christian believers responded to that calamitous event.
I picked up this book in a thrift store in Dahlonega, Georgia, not far from where the tragedy took place. Recognizing the cover, I thumbed the book and immediately came across the letter from Rosalynn Carter, who visited the disaster site within hours of its happening. What I read in this short letter made me take pause:
“The miracle of Toccoa Falls confirms what I believe. God loves us and will help us always. He gives us unlimited strength when we trust in Him.”
Today, would our First Lady make such heart-felt comments about faith in God? I immediately bought the book and started reading.
The pages, while filled with the narratives of so many of the flood victims, told another story: Faith in Jesus Christ gave each person an other-worldly peace in the face of death and tragedy. One married student lost his wife and small child. His response? “My greatest responsibility as a husband was to see my family come to faith in Christ. My family knew Jesus. They are with the Lord (104). ” Another mother who lost her infant child whom she was grasping tightly in her arms as the raging waters swept them both away said this, “God gave us Jaimee long enough to teach us how to love one another (122).” Finally, and the most difficult to imagine, was the man who lost his wife and four of his five children in the flood! He responded like so many of the other victims, by singing and giving thanks unto the Lord!
As I read page after page, the message was loud and clear: Absolute trust and faith in God is the most important thing a person will ever do!!
As Orthodox Christians, we are taught that Christ trampled down death by death when He willingly died on the cross. We believe that death has lost its sting, because Christ enabled us to join with Him in His heavenly kingdom. Do I live every day like these Christians of Toccoa Falls College? No! But, I need to and their faith teaches me even today, almost 4o years later.
Of course, we had to visit the site of this great flood and see it for ourselves. Today, you will see life and love and activity all around this campus and the falls.
If you can get your hands on this short read, I would encourage you to do it. It will change the way you think about faith.