Blen McInnes still gets chills every time he thinks about the devastating Woden floods of January 26, 1971.
It was early evening when a freak, one-in-500-year storm lashed Woden, quickly turning roads into rapidly flowing rivers.
The area's drainage system couldn't cope with the 90 millimetres of rain that fell in less than an hour.
Deep floodwaters swept cars away, some disappearing into stormwater drains, occupants unable to escape.
Seven young people - including four children - lost their lives on the day.
McInnes helped save two lives, dragging two men stuck clinging to a lamp post to safety through rapid floodwater.
But he can't shake the feeling he could have saved more.
Five of the dead were in the one car: Carmel Smith, 19, Margaret Smith, 15, and Michael Smith, 6, and their cousins, Jennifer Seymour, 12, and Dianne Seymour, 8.
Lon Cumberland, 18, was swept away on his way back from basketball training, while Roderick Dumaresq Simon, 20, died on his way to pick up his wife in Farrer.
"I remember those seven little bodies down at the mortuary, god rest their souls," McInnes told The Canberra Times earlier this week.
"Frail little bodies, that they were.
"You think, what would those kids be doing today? What professions would they be doing?"
A fateful January night
McInnes, along with his then wife, was babysitting friends' children on the night of the flood.
About 8pm there was a knock at the door, with a man asking if he happened to have a rope.
People were trapped at the intersection on Yarra Glen and a lot of people had been swept away, he was told.
McInnes, an off-duty police offer who worked at the coroner's office, didn't have a rope - but nevertheless he sprang into action.
"I went down and it was utter bedlam," he said.
Two men - Peter Smith, who had watched his siblings swept away to their death, and Kevin Seymour, the father of Jennifer and Dianne - were clinging to a light pole surrounded by fast-moving water.
McInnes knew there was a flagpole at the nearby Slovenian Club. He went down there and managed to get the rope off the pole.
He tied a slip knot around his waist and started to make his way through the water to the men.
"It was all adrenaline," McInnes said.
"I was getting swept back because the torrent was so strong. It was still raining heavily and really dark."
As he got close to the two men, McInnes said he was able to slip the rope from his waist and lasso it directly over them.
The rope landed on them just as the two men lost their grip on the pole that had been keeping them from being swept away.
"I'm not a very biblical person," McInnes said.
"But the irony that someone happened to knock on my door miles away ... and that I knew there was a rope available at the club.
"Then these guys had hung on for so long, I was able to undo the rope and throw it over these guys all in one movement, just as they let go.
"You've got to think someone upstairs was looking after me."
Smith and Seymour were two of more than 10 people people saved, while a further 15 were injured.
Recognition, but not remembrance
McInnes was one of five police officers awarded bravery medals for their actions on that fateful night.
He and constables Peter Harrison, Michael Lucas and Joseph Whelan received the Queen's Commendation for Brave Conduct, while Constable Jeff Brown was awarded the prestigious British Empire Medal for Gallantry.
Despite saving two people, McInnes often stops to think what might have happened if he could have been at the scene 30 minutes earlier.
Perhaps more young lives could have been saved.
For many of the people still alive who were caught up in the flood or lost loved ones, the pain is still fresh.
On the 50th anniversary of the flood on Tuesday, McInnes plans to meet privately with Peter Smith, one of the men he helped save.
To mark the anniversary, the public has been invited to a service at the Woden Flood Memorial in Curtin at 7pm on January 26.
Retired bishop Pat Power will say a few words, and white ribbons will be tied on the trees.
For many years, McInnes was hurt by the lack of remembrance in Canberra for the floods and the loss of life.
He fought tirelessly for the memorial to be erected, only to be dismayed when the area fell into disrepair.
These days he thinks it is looked after much better.
But he still can't believe how few people know about the disaster.
"It hurt me a lot because people didn't take much notice. Seven young people lost their lives," he said.
"I know it's a transient populace, but you should still be able to pass things on to people."
He comes and visits the memorial once every few months.
"I still get goosebumps when I come down here," he said.