'I Almost Gave Up': Flood Survivor Remembers the Voice Who Saved Her

Jun 28, 2016

The town of Rainelle, a town of about 1,500 people, was largely evacuated last Thursday because of the flood. Water rose about 5 ft. in parts of the town, damaging businesses, homes, and the library. Fred Fryar was one of the evacuees. He’s the pastor of Sewell Valley Baptist Church. Two days later, he was working on cleaning his home.

Fred Fryar’s front lawn was covered in mud as he was carrying most of he and his wife’s furniture, clothes, and personal belongings out to the curb. Most of it had been destroyed.  

But he had a smile on his face. Because, he said, “you get to the place where laughing is what you can do about it,” said Fryar. He lost at least two church members who passed away in the flood. He says he’s lucky to be alive.

He called 911 four times to be rescued. Emergency responders were dealing with evacuations all over Greenbrier County that night. Volunteers came to help from all over the state. Members of Fryar’s church knew he was stranded, so they found two volunteers who had brought their personal John boat. Fryar didn’t know if anyone was coming. It was dark. The water was up to his chest.

His neighbor 79-year-old Helen Hanson was also trapped.

Hanson says she was praying all day long for help to come.

“I finally decided when it started to get dark, 'Lord you have completely forgotten about me.'”

Then around 11 at night, Fryer saw the John boat moving down the street towards them.

“So I hollered at her, and said the boat’s comin, the boat’s comin.”

Fred Fryar is the pastor of Sewell Valley Baptist Church.

Fryar says there were so many people who were scared and stuck in their homes. Not all of them survived.

He says he heard “people hollering ‘help help’ that night, older people that needed some help and knew that if they didn’t get it they were done for.”

Helen Hanson was about to give up. She decided she would if the water reached the back of her neck.

“I was just going to let it put me under the water. Cause I knew that’s what’s gonna happen. And it’s not a very good feeling,” Hanson remembers.

“The water was cold and it kept getting colder on my legs. It kept getting colder and colder, and it was terrible. But the good Lord was with me.”

Not long after Hanson considered giving up, the volunteers arrived. Fred Fryer told her to rescue Hanson first. They carried her into their boat.

They had to lift her into the boat because she could hardly use her legs.

Neither Hanson nor Fryar found out the names of the two guys who rescued them. If it hadn’t been for them, they both say they don’t know if they would have been saved in time.

“People in West Virginia’s just good like that. And they’re ready to help. And some of them don’t even know you, but they’re ready to help,” said Fryar.

For the next few days, Fryar and his wife, and Helen Hanson have been staying with members of Fryar’s church, who live in Meadowbridge.

Like most of the displaced people from Rainelle, they’re waiting to see what happens once FEMA arrives.

“Things are lookin up. God is so good to us. He said he would work things out to our good … I don’t know how he’s gonna do that, but he’s gonna do it,” Fryar said, choking back tears.

A day after he was interviewed, Fryar did receive some good news. He and his wife Kathy were offered a temporary home in Rainelle. The home is owned by Helen Hanson’s family. Hanson plans to go there too, and the three of them will be able to stay there as long as it takes to rebuild their homes.