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Town of Lyons gathers to remember deadly 2013 floods

Nine people died in the disaster, and floodwaters destroyed thousands of homes.

LYONS, Colo. — Community members and elected officials gathered in downtown Lyons Sunday for a ceremony to commemorate a decade since deadly flooding decimated the town.

Recovering from the 2013 floods took some communities nearly 10 years. Nine people died in the disaster, and floodwaters destroyed thousands of homes. 

In Lyons, the day of commemoration was officially proclaimed "Grit, Grace and Gratitude Day."

"In many ways, the legacy of 2013 isn't the flood, it's the remarkable recovery," said Gov. Jared Polis, who attended the event. "I’m so proud of what Lyons has accomplished." 

Other elected officials in attendance included Sens. John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, both of whom shared reflections on the disaster. 

Locals in the crowd, including Sandy Spellman, who lost her house in the floods, celebrated resilience. 

"We had the river close enough to our deck that you could cast a line into the river. We were really close," she recalled. 

Spellman watched the water eat away at the home she'd moved into just two months before. 

"The power was so unbelievable and so unstoppable it was just, it was incredible," she said. "We thought that’s the end. The house is swept away." 

She said volunteers from across the country and around the world who came to Lyons to help with cleanup restored her hope. 

"I guess every place thinks they're special, but I think we're really special. I think this is a town that has such heart," she said. 

She has rebuilt her home along the river, as have many other neighbors in Lyons. But the town knows not everything is the same as before -- and likely never will be. 

"Many homes were never rebuilt and you can see that in the gap-toothed smile of our neighborhoods where there are empty lots where friends used to be," former Lyons mayor Julie Van Domelen said. 

But 10 years after the flood, residents are celebrating recovery. 

"We're on the river again," Spellman said. "We survived."

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