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'Agnes' documentary premieres in Wilkes-Barre

The storm that hit the Wyoming Valley hard, hits the big screen. The documentary premiered in front of more than a thousand, many of whom lived through the flooding.

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — It was a sold-out showing at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. 

Hundreds flocked to see a film documenting the devastating flooding from Hurricane Agnes in a theatre that was under water 50 years ago.

"We wanted to do it here because this building is in the movie," said Alan K. Stout, the film's executive producer and narrator. "Where we're standing right now, we would've been under twelve feet of water at this time."

A theatre once filled with water, filled with people ready to mark the somber anniversary, Thursday. 

Stout wanted to complete an Agnes documentary for the 40th anniversary. 

That plan fell through, but more than 10 years and about $50,000 later, the history is coming to life again.

"There's still a lot of people still here that remember Agnes, including myself as a five-year-old boy being evacuated 50 years ago today," Stout said.

"We were on the Edwardsville dike when the dike moved like a snake and popped," recalled Jack, who grew up in Kingston and attended the premiere.

Jack was 17 years old in June of 1972 and left his home that day, curious about the rising waters. 

Soon he and a friend were swimming for higher ground and tall objects looking for safety; they were later rescued by some boats.

"We saw things that were pretty crazy," he said. "People leaving, people tying their dogs up. You'd hear the dogs bark, and all the sudden, you wouldn't hear the dogs bark."

Timothy Novotney, the film's director and cinematographer, wasn't alive to see the flooding but felt compelled to share the impactful stories with a new generation.

"From someone who didn't experience it, seeing what I saw when I was making the film was just breathtaking," Novotney said. "You couldn't imagine that something to horrific happened in this area."

After the house lights dropped and the credits rolled, "Agnes" began. 

The film shows not only the destruction and heartache but the Wyoming Valley's triumphant recovery. 

"As separate as we seem from each other, if something like this were to happen again, it's great to see that people will just help out their neighbor and come together to rebuild," Novotney said. 

"I hope they feel a sense of pride," Stout added. "I hope they feel very proud of what their parents and grandparents did."

Some of the people who lived through the flooding said the documentary brought back memories of those difficult days but also of the bravery and resilience of the people of the Wyoming Valley 50 years ago.  

See more stories about Agnes on YouTube.

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