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1997 flood profile: Thomasine Heitkamp

Heitkamp packed a box of important items for safe-keeping, including a Rosary blessed by Pope John the 23rd, a cheerleading letter, silver dollars, a George McGovern pin and a prisoner of war bracelet. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS -- Thomasine Heitkamp knew her house was in trouble, so she and her family did what they could to save as much as possible.

Her family — including her sister, Heidi Heitkamp, and brother, Joel Heitkamp — came from around the state to help clean the basement and the main floor.

She and her family tried to build a dike around the house, but the water poured in anyway, she said. They lost pretty much everything in the house except what they had moved upstairs.

When it began to flood, she thought about what she wanted to share for posterity and what she didn't want to lose. Heitkamp packed a box of important items for safekeeping, including a rosary blessed by Pope John the 23rd, a cheerleading letter, silver dollars and a prisoner of war bracelet.

She also moved all of her art up to the top floor, as well as photo albums.

"There's things we missed and lost," Heitkamp said. "Probably the hardest part about losing things really was my son's toys in his room."

One of her memories from coming back to the house was having to clean out the smelly refrigerator that had been inundated by floodwater.

"It was gross," she said. "It stunk."

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