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Marking 20 years: For readers who want it, magazine to commemorate great flood

Kathy LaVoi sits on the dike around her home in the Burke Addition south of Grand Forks on April 18. About a foot of water was in the basement by noon, and LaVoi couldn't keep up. (Chuck Kimmerle/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
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Pat Owens no longer lives in Grand Forks, but she'll always have a place in local lore for her role during the devastating flood of 1997.

These days, the former Grand Forks mayor lives in Ocala, Fla. That's a long way from the chilly spring breezes of North Dakota, but it's a safe bet her heart will be in the northern Red River Valley in the coming weeks.

It's been 20 years since the Red overflowed its banks and swallowed much of the Grand Cities in April of 1997. Anyone who was here — and I was not — knows the flood always will be the city's measuring stick for disaster and determination.

The flood is the city's soul. The people who overcame it are its backbone. The rebuilding process is its heart. Altogether, the pieces form a living spirit that will never fade from this city's memory.

In the weeks leading up to mid-April two decades ago, worries rose in direct correlation with the rising waters. On April 17, hope was lost; the Red eventually reached the 54-foot stage and consumed the cities on both banks. The nation was shocked as Owens — who was mayor at the time — called for an evacuation of Grand Forks.

After the muck receded, it took months, and in some cases years, before life here returned to normal.

Owens was the face of the disaster as it played out on national television.

"I'd say this daily to everybody — I'd say 'Keep the faith,' and I meant faith in God and faith in yourself and faith in those around you because we were going to become bigger, better and stronger," Owens recently told the Herald. "Midwest people ... man, they showed more strength than I've ever seen."

Subscribers within Grand Forks and East Grand Forks will be charged $4 for the magazine, which will be placed in your April 16 edition of the Herald. You won't see an additional $4 on your billing statement, but it will be deducted from your balance, resulting in an earlier expiration date.

Anyone who doesn't want it simply can let us know with a telephone call, email or by returning a letter we soon will send in the newspaper. The telephone number to call is (701) 780-1201, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The email address is

I hope you consider making this purchase. We began work on the project last summer and I think it definitely will be worth the additional $4. And again, for the city subscribers who do not want the magazine, all they have to do is let us know and they won't receive it and therefore won't be charged. If we don't hear from you, we'll assume you have decided to make the purchase.

It's a different process for subscribers outside of the Grand Cities. If they like, they can purchase the magazine for $4, plus shipping and handling fees. Because of its size, it will cost a few dollars to send it.

Non-city subscribers will not automatically be billed, but they can purchase the magazine by reaching out to us. Again, use the aforementioned phone number or write us via email.

People who do not subscribe to the Herald can purchase the magazine for $8, plus shipping and handling, while supplies last. They, too, can have it sent via mail, or they can purchase it at our downtown office.

A portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local charity.

The magazine will feature interviews of that era's leaders — like Owens — along with interviews, testimonials and stories of the community's strength and incredible patience during a historically difficult time.

Meanwhile, the Herald will host an open house this week to discuss the flood and how the newspaper covered it. The event will be from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, March 24, in the Herald's Community Room.

As most know, the Herald's flood coverage led to the newspaper winning the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. And as many don't know, the Herald also finished second that year in the Pulitzer's photography category. We have dozens of stunning flood photos hanging on the walls in the Herald's Community Room, and attendees at our open house will be able to stroll around to see those images.

The featured speakers will be Mike Maidenberg, who was publisher of the Herald at that time, and Mike Jacobs, who was editor. Jacobs later became publisher, retiring from that role in 2014. They will speak shortly after 3 p.m.

The Herald's Pulitzer Prize will be on display, as well.

I hope you buy the commemorative magazine. Meanwhile, please consider attending our open house Friday.

The flood itself isn't something worth celebrating. By all accounts, it was the most trying of times.

What should be celebrated is the perseverance of the hardy people who endured the flood's misery, and the camaraderie that was forged by the devastation.

That's what the Herald hopes to accomplish in these coming weeks.