Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Minnesota Faces: Flood survivor January 30, 2015

Portrait #5: Tracy Yennie, after the flood


Tracey, Zumbro Falls flood 2010


She’s a young woman I will always remember. Tracy Yennie. Strong. Determined. Thankful. A redneck. Her word, not mine.

When I met this mother of four young boys in early October 2010, she was hanging out next to the Salvation Army trailer in downtown Zumbro Falls, a small southeastern Minnesota community ravaged by a September 23/24 flash flood. Tracy’s family lost nearly everything, as did many others, and was camping in a shed on their riverside property.

When I interviewed Tracy, she was waiting on FEMA. She talked strong, invincible. But I could see the weariness in her eyes, edged by dark circles. I saw beneath her tough veneer. I saw a woman concerned about her future.

I wonder sometimes what happened to Tracy and her family. Do they still live in her hometown of Zumbro Falls? Or did the flood force them out?

Of all the portraits I’ve taken, Tracy’s ranks as perhaps my favorite. This photo tells the story of one woman dealing with disaster. And beyond Tracy, if you look at the details, you notice steps leading to the Salvation Army trailer. You notice the flowers behind her, still standing after the flood. You notice a business district seemingly unscathed. But if you were to walk the sidewalks, you would see the damage close-up.

This photo documents disaster in a personal way. It shows disaster as more than a number or an insurance claim. This image puts a face on disaster. And that is powerful.


This portrait is part of a new series, Minnesota Faces, featured every Friday on Minnesota Prairie Roots.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Minnesota Faces: Flood survivor”

  1. This photo so reminds me of the iconic Dorothea Lange photo of the Depression-era mother. Not sure if it will come through or not. Excellent photo and post, Audrey.

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    That is an amazing picture. I love this series. I think you have a winner with this one for sure.

    • Thank you. This photo of Tracy has always been one of my favorites. I’m glad you’re enjoying my “Minnesota Faces” series. I had no idea I had accumulated so many portraits until I started going through my files. Converting them to black-and-white has thrust them in a new light, too.

  3. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Too bad you can’t put those kind of details into an insurance claim.

  4. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    That you shot this in B & W adds to the mood, too. One of your best, Audrey. Maybe someone who knows her will see this blog and you’ll learn what happened to her.

    • I actually shot the portrait in color and converted to black-and-white in photo editing. Sometimes stripping the color can make for a more powerful photo without the distraction of color. That’s why I’m doing this entire series in black-and-white.

      And, yes, I’m hopeful I will hear from a reader (Katie) who may know what happened to Tracy.

  5. hotlyspiced Says:

    You would have to be incredibly strong to endure that sort of a loss. Thank goodness for charities like the Salvation Army xx

  6. Jackie Says:

    I just kept looking at her face…her expression, it casts an air of strength and steadfastness. Something tells me she’s doing o.k. Great Photo Audrey, black and white portraits are my favorite!

  7. treadlemusic Says:

    A beautiful photo exemplifying the life choices foisted upon us……to look forward or dwell on the preceding/precipitating event……BUT to do nothing at all is never one of the options and therein lies the great human challenge that causes great things to come from the “ashes” of a tragedy. This series is one that will provide opportunities for personal soul searching and giving thanks for the Lord’s faithfulness in the midst of our situations. Thank you so much for these!!!! Hugs………………

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