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White Sulphur woman builds memorial honoring flood victims

Audrey VanBuren spearheaded memorial after losing family in flood.


WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic flooding that devastated parts of West Virginia.

A woman in White Sulphur Springs has made it her mission to memorialize those who didn't make it out of the flood.

"This is a labor of love. It's a labor of love." 

In the middle of White Sulphur, just off Main Street, lies a tribute to people who died in last year's flooding.

After losing her sister-in-law and mother-in-law in the flood, Audrey VanBuren felt it in her heart to fight back against Mother Nature's force. She says she refused to let her hometown of more than 60 years sink into despair -- instead, giving them a place to mourn and move forward.

"Every citizen in White Sulphur knew every name that's on this wall and we just really wanted to do something special for them," said VanBuren, parks commissioner for White Sulphur. 

Audrey had some help from local Boy Scout Cameron Zobrist and designer Josh Adamo. Not to mention the countless volunteers that circle in and out of the city. It may be a labor of love for Audrey, but it's also a sign of selflessness.

"I've never seen anything like this, the devastation. But also I've never seen anything like the people that swarmed into White Sulphur after the flood. They swarmed in, not hundreds but thousands," said VanBuren. 

It took about six weeks of hard work to take a place where several feet of floodwater once flowed and turn it into a memorial for the ages. A memorial made up of rock from Howard's Creek, the same creek that leveled houses and left too many families with one less loved one. 

"I just hate to think that they lost their lives in the flood and someone's going to not think about them ever again. I want people who come here to see and realize these are people just the same as us. It could have been any one of us," said VanBuren. 

There's a lot of emotion hidden in the shadows of these rocks. But also a lot of hope, hope that a city can keep recovering and not let the water win.

The memorial, part of the Old Mill Park, is the site of the first dedication ceremony in White Sulphur Friday. That service begins at 3 p.m..