When the Democrat-Gazette approached Kerri Basinger and Candace Smith about participating in this series, they were reluctant.
Describing the events of that night was painful. But the two women agreed to a series of interviews, including one at Albert Pike Recreation Area, where they lost their husbands and young children.
In a letter to the newspaper, they explained their decision:
This is our story, one of many that occurred that night, one that plays over and over again in our minds.
What could I have done differently, what could others have done differently?
Most of all, what can we change so that others don’t have to go through what we have.
How can we get our message out and understood?
We know our story is difficult to read, but imagine if it was yours. We believe our calling is to help others by telling our story and in doing so, prompting change in the Forestry system nationwide.
Aside from interviews with Kerri and Candace, reporters Cathy Frye and Amy Upshaw also interviewed more than 20 survivors, rescuers and others, including Janice McRae, Lt. Brady and Gina Gore, Roger York, Jimmy Hicks, Kathryn Cleveland, Cohen Davis and meteorologist John Lewis.
They used those interviews, visits to the ravaged campground and documents from the Arkansas State Police, the sheriff’s offices in Montgomery and Pike counties, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service to re-create what happened that morning.
Frye and Upshaw also relied on documents to accurately describe the severity of the June 11 flood. A hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey determined that the flood was “greater than a 500-year flood event,” according to the documents released by the Agriculture Department.