BY ANDREA TORTORA
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FALMOUTH, Ky. - On the surface, things are back to normal at Pendleton County High School, once used for weeks as a shelter after the March flood.
Students laugh, run and tease each other in the halls. Teachers holler after them to slow down.
"It's almost like it never happened," senior April Florence said as she waited for a ride home.
But in classrooms, on the walls and inside the hearts of many, there are permanent reminders of the natural disaster that turned this school into an emergency shelter and turned this rural town upside down.
"Things are about the same, but there are a few students who left and we've got a lot of new ones," senior Miranda Baker said as she walked past a heart-shaped ceramic mosaic cemented to the school lobby wall.
Created by 30 students between April and June, the mosaic is an emotional picture of the flood's devastation and the good works that have transpired.
"Because the school was used as a shelter, even people that aren't students can see it and understand what it means," said senior Mandy Stitt, one of the students who worked with art teacher Brenda McGinnis to create the mosaic.
Students already had planned to create a large mural, but when the flood hit, their plans changed.
"When we came back to school I asked them to talk about their feelings," Mrs. McGinnis said. "Some had been in the flood, some knew people that had."
The result is an illustration of raging waters giving way to bright red, blue and green brick tiles forming a rainbow. In the middle stands a woman, cupped in outstretched hands, facing the rainbow and leaving the floodwater behind.
"It's just what we wanted," junior Donnie Buchanan said. "It was very hard work, but it shows understanding."
Students started with a 350-pound slab of clay. They rolled it, etched in their design and then cut it up like a puzzle. Each piece was fired, glazed and fired again.
The pieces were then cemented in place on the wall outside the main office.
"Like any other disaster, you need to remember it, learn from it, but you don't need to dwell on it," Superintendent Patrick Clore said.
The design illustrates what has happened to students, faculty, staff and the community.
"We've had truckload and truckload of school supplies, backpacks, clothing, athletic equipment - anything a child lost and needs for a successful year they've been provided," said Gordon Staten, director of pupil personnel.
"We just pretty much started as normal this year and proceeded in that manner. We didn't make a big to-do of it. It's over. It's passed."
The Flood of '97
140 COLOR PHOTOS