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May 25, 2014

Leaders look toward city on anniversary

— The 1889 Johnstown Flood is not only an important part of the city’s identity, but it is also a piece of Pennsylvania’s rich history.

So, on the 125th anniversary of the disaster, three of the commonwealth’s most well-known elected officials - Gov. Tom Corbett, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey - have taken the time to share their thoughts with the community, as have City of Johnstown Mayor Frank J. Janakovic and U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, who represents the municipality in Washington, D.C.

Here are their words:

Gov. Tom Corbett

The people of Johnstown have carved a large place in the annals of American courage. Three times in the past 125 years, the city has been knocked down by devastating floods, starting with the disaster of May 31, 1889.

 In the 1930s and, again, in the 1980s, economic upheaval tested the city’s mettle and through that time, the people held on, kept faith in their futures and did not allow so much as a single, empty storefront on Main Street.

 Johnstown endures because its people have a tradition of bravery and optimism.

 To be a Johnstowner is to inherit a legacy of grit, grace and fearlessness passed down from generations who endured flood, depression and upheaval only to transform those trials into a living testament to the American spirit.

 There cannot be anyone in America who knows Johnstown’s story without believing the place and the people are indestructible - not survivors but champions.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

This year, we recall the 125th Anniversary of the Johnstown Flood, one of the most unforgettable tragedies in our nation’s history.  This anniversary reminds us of the delicacy of human life and the importance of caring for others. I learned a great deal about the tragedy from David McCullough’s 1968 book, The Johnstown Flood.

 There are many stories of heroism and of suffering.  Men, women and children from all backgrounds came together to rescue neighbors and went to great lengths to protect and save human life.  The survivors lived on to rebuild Johnstown and the resilience and the spirit of the people of Johnstown has endured for generations.

 This anniversary should also be a reminder of the importance of rescue efforts that are organized to assist those who are impacted by natural disasters.  The American Red Cross was newly established at the time of the flood and its leader, Clara Barton, faced the difficult recovery work head on to help the people of Johnstown.

 The people of Johnstown and the Laurel Valley demonstrated great strength that rose above the awful devastation of the flood. On this 125th anniversary, we are inspired by their courage, resilience and determination during difficult times.

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