When Hurricane Fran blew through Chapel Hill in 1996, our son was only six months old. He slept in his crib and we slept in our bedroom–all on the second floor of the house–as the wind picked up and the rain came down. My husband and I slept fitfully. The wind and the rain and strange popping sounds woke us up throughout the night. The morning light revealed the source of all the popping sounds. Trees toppled like matchsticks lay across streets, driveways, roofs, and cars. There was, of course, no power. My next-door neighbor brought me coffee made on her gas stove and I remembered how much we need each other.
When the first airplane hit the first of the World Trade Center Towers, I was working at Orange United Methodist Church. It was a beautiful fall day in Chapel Hill. I thought the plane hitting the North Tower had to be a freak accident. Then an airplane crashed in to the South Tower. The events of the day continued to unfold. The United States suffered its worst terrorist attack in history. At Orange United Methodist Church, we held a prayer service the day after the attacks. The Sunday after the attacks, the sanctuary was completely full. I was reminded of just how much we need each other.
When my father-in-law died at age 85, he had lived a long full life. He had survived prostate cancer for over 25 years. He had seen his three children marry, his five grandchildren graduate high school, and his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas grow by leaps and bounds. The sanctuary of Tarrytown United Methodist Church was full as we celebrated his service of death and resurrection. People from all parts of his life gave us hugs and kind words of condolence in the fellowship hall after the service. I was reminded again of how much we need each other.
When the waters rise in North Carolina, we witness scenes of repeated, unprecedented destruction. Again, two years after Hurricane Matthew, we have watched the winds and the waters of a hurricane destroy homes, businesses, churches, and entire communities. We are grieving for all that has been lost. We also are strengthened by scenes of incredible heroism, sacrifice, and selflessness. Humans have put themselves in harm’s way to rescue animals. Neighbors have been helping neighbors string up tarps, clear branches, and find supplies. Strangers have become friends as we remember how much we need each other.
I wish today that I could travel east to muck out a house or deliver supplies or listen to storm stories. To my dismay, I have some health issues that make it unwise for me to engage in crisis response or disaster response on site. What I can do is pray. I can donate money. And, I can take the time to go through my accumulation of Scout camping gear to find tents, tarps, sleeping bags and other useful gear to donate to Walking Tall Wilmington. When I didn’t know how I was going to get the stuff to Wilmington, a valued colleague took my items to group with other donations that she would be delivering to the folks affected by Hurricane Florence.
When I am weak, you can be strong. When you are weak, I can be strong. We need each other.