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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Kindness of Others

My DH Bill, Mary Moon and Tom Guerrant, me
Photo by Betsey Guerrant Arnett

Everyone from Charleston to Charlotte is remembering the terror of hurricane Hugo today, the 20th anniversary. We awoke to unbelievable devastation, what one would except after a category 4 storm - and worse. My DH left immediately for the Emergency Operations Center where he remained for the next several days. At that time he was Director of Public Service and Information for the City of Charlotte, which faced a tremendous public crisis.

I immediately realized the clean-up would be a gigantic task, one I wasn't sure my 10-year old son Matthew and I could handle. And then I heard a cacophony of chainsaws which would continue for days, all over the city. Neighbors had come outdoors and were working side by side. I also saw my husband's brother Tom, who'd somehow driven many miles through the debris to get to our house. He climbed up on our garage roof to remove fallen limbs and then worked for hours and hours. I'll never forget his kindness. He's quite a guy.

Not only was the city a total disaster zone, 90% also had no power. Between 80 thousand and 100,000 trees were lost. Immediate needs were ice and batteries. I found a small grocery store open and spotted a very Outward Bound looking fellow- someone who would know how to survive. I followed him around, buying everything he bought. I later shopped by flashlight in the one open drugstore I found, going for batteries first.

A few days later my son and I, along with neighbors Robert, Michael, Nancy and Daniel decided to save a 20' dogwood tree which had been blown parallel to the ground in our front yard. We rigged a pulley system and with Robert pulling and the rest of us pushing, managed to get the tree upright. It took every bit of strength we had. A wet, tall dogwood tree weighs a lot!

Power was not restored for 10 days. Some went as long as 18 days without electricity. Bit by bit the city came back. Little things became huge joys. We all celebrated when a laundromat was once again open. Clean clothes at last!

I have been on the verge of tears all day (something I'd not expected). Loss and devastation were huge. But the sight of neighbors and total strangers working together to rebuild was SO powerful. In my husband's words, "In many ways, it was our city's finest hour."


Exuberant Color said...

My daughter moved to Charlotte 9 1/2 years ago and some of the trees in her back yard have top sections that take a 45 degree turn from the winds in that storm.

Corky said...

I'm just catching up on some blogs. I sure felt your emotions as I was in Charleston when Hugo hit. To say the least it was an experience!