Susquehanna Life Out Loud

Fall 2020 — The Past Shall Guide Us

September 3, 2020

Autumn is a reflective time for many people. The various fragrances of the season including the aroma of pumpkin spice treats or the earthy smell of a leaf pile, immediately stir up memories. In speaking to residents about what they remember of the fall of 1972, Andrew Stuhl, an associate professor of environmental studies and sciences at Bucknell University, learned about the powerful smell of flood mud. This was the pungent odor throughout the Susquehanna Valley after Hurricane Agnes brought historic rainfalls and a massive flood which upended lives and reshaped towns and waterways.

“It reminds me of the connection between smell and memory, and how quickly a memory can come back to you if you smell something in the present day,” Andrew tells podcast co-host, Peterson Toscano. "I like to think about that as a metaphor for the importance of history and the importance of moments like Hurricane Agnes. They’re always with us, and sometimes they don’t come to our immediate senses, but they can be triggered, and they can be brought up really quickly. I like to believe in the power of memory and history, to mine those experiences, to reflect on them, and recognize and regard them, so we that can walk today in the difficult moments, and get through them.”

Andrew talks about his community-based research, the Agnes Flood Project. You will learn why this one storm is still so important, not just for the region, but for the entire country. Lessons drawn from 1972 and the resiliency modeled by local residents during and after the storm will help us in coping and caring for each other during the Coronavirus Pandemic and with the growing risks of climate change.

If you or someone you know have Hurricane Agnes stories to share for the Agnes Flood project, contact Andrew Stuhl and the team. They are also looking for pictures from the hurricane and its aftermath. Email

Elizabeth Wislar lived in Williamsport for five years. She recently moved, but finds herself thinking a lot about the city and its inhabitants—the current ones and those who lived here long ago. These include once wealthy lumber barons and the indigenous people before them who once lived along the river. Elizabeth is mixed blood—Lenape and Choctaw, and she is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation. She hopes the curiosity she has about Native history in the region will be contagious.

Looking over the Susquehanna River at Williamsport, she wondered about the original inhabitants and the history too often hidden from view. She says, “I just couldn’t help but feel an absolute absence and erasure every time I walked on the River Walk. I would really like more people to understand what happened there—to the land, to the trees, to the people. An enormous amount of trauma happened in that area.”

Elizabeth shares what she has discovered about the Susquehannock and the Lenape who inhabited the region. She speaks about the violence the European settlers and the leaders of the newly formed United States perpetuated against the people and the land. She unearths for us stories of the lumber barons who made and then lost fortunes in the city. She also invites current residents to join in on the conversation about this history. Elizabeth believes it will be a healing process, one filled with essential lessons needed to keep us from repeating history.

Also in this episode, Erica Shames, founder and publisher of Susquehanna Life Magazine, shares a delicious socially distanced lunch with co-host Peterson Toscano. They meet up in the new outdoor patio at Elizabeth’s An American Bistro. Eavesdrop on their conversation to discover what all the buzz is about.

Plus Peterson shares new features in the magazine and the perfect treat to bake this fall.

You will hear all this and more in the latest episode of Susquehanna Life Out Loud

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