Annette Viselli Thorne

One of our great paralegals at the Ziff Law Firm, Annette Viselli Thorne, a former longtime resident of “the Valley” (the Sayre-Athens area, for those who don’t know!), helped over the weekend with recovery. Now a resident of Painted Post, her heart is still with her friends and family in the Valley, too!

She wrote the following about her efforts — not to draw attention to herself (Annette is NEVER like that) but to show the world what her friends and family are facing back home.

Here is her dispatch (it brought tears to my eyes!):

Up until a little over three years ago, when I moved to Painted Post, I was a Valley Girl, having been born, raised and lived there nearly all of my life. As the saying goes, you can take the girl out of the Valley but you can’t take the Valley out of the girl, and those words, once again, rang very true when my hometown was devastated by the recent flooding.

In 1972, when we were the victims of Agnes and I was just a young girl, the Valley, particularly downtown Athens, was destroyed by flooding and I remember it very well. My father was a volunteer firefighter and he was gone for days to assist those in need. I remember the devastation at my elementary school that was across the street from the river.

But this time, it was different, not only because I think we were hit just as hard if not harder by this flood, but because as an adult, it had a different meaning. I didn’t feel helpless like a small child and I was able to lend a helping hand.

I walked River Street in downtown Athens just a few short days after the flood hit, and unless you see it firsthand, you’d have no idea of how much people suffered. For most, the entire first floor of their homes had been under water and they were left with the aftermath. One would think the water would be the worst of the damage, but it is the mud that takes over these homes, causing the most damage. As I walked River Street, I encountered families who were like lost souls, digging through inches of mud to attempt to recover their belongings, their family heirlooms, whatever was left of their homes. Unfortunately for many, there was very little left.

Aside from the many homes in Sayre and Athens that were destroyed, many businesses in Athens were also destroyed. There were people who lost their homes AND their jobs.

The Valley, as always, is filled with the most  kindhearted and giving people I have encountered, and they immediately began to rally. People from all over New York State and Pennsylvania, countless organizations, school groups, college students, high school students, people from all walks of life, came out to do whatever they could to help our little community.

Having my father’s strong sense for the importance of giving back to your community, I, too, began my own rally in collecting much-needed supplies for the Valley, and with the help of friends, family and my Ziff Law Family, I was able to lend a helping hand and deliver more than $300 in supplies and numerous bags of clothing to the recovery center in downtown Athens on Saturday.

Jack Schamel of our Ziff Law Family delivered much-needed mattresses, wheelchairs and walkers to the recovery center. From there,  we made the trip to the Valley Rally, an event that mirrored  our annual Christmas Is For Kids, live three-hour radio broadcast at our local Sayre Theatre. This event collected furniture, household appliances of all sizes, clothing, cash donations and so on. The outpouring of help from the community was beyond words, with supplies being lined from one corner to the next, U-Haul truck loads one after another, filled to capacity.

Neighbors served meals to the workers, and restaurants offered free meals to victims and workers. The kindness and generosity of the fine people in the Valley went on and on.  

The rally was a very emotional time for the victims, who have endured so much, and the volunteers. This amazing event raised more than $250,000, and that is not counting the many donated items. It was incredible beyond words!

Also, being the animal lover I am and realizing that many four-legged friends were also victims, my instincts kicked in and again, with the help of family, friends and co-workers, I was able to make a substantial donation of dog and cat food to a nearby animal shelter.

What impressed me was how EVERYONE came together as one to take care of our neighbors and friends. The life lessons that we are teaching our children is the importance of being an asset to your community!  

A new phrase was coined at the Valley Rally on Saturday, coming from one of the residents affected by the flood, who said, “We are not victims, we are survivors!”

And survivors the Valley residents are! I’m proud of my hometown and proud to be a Valley Girl!

If you’d like to read more about the Valley Rally, go here.

But more importantly, if you’d like to help the people in the Valley or you need help with flood recovery, go here.

I hope residents of Elmira, Corning and across the Twin Tiers help pitch in and set an example for the younger generation, too!

Please scroll below to see photos of the flooding in the Valley by Lisa Robinson-Howeler of Gladwynn Photography. The photos provide just a small taste of the devastation in the Valley. 

My heartfelt thanks to Annette and Lisa, and thanks for reading!



James B. Reed
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607) 733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
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