After a Storm: Community, Patience, & Gratitude

On Sept. 18, 2003 – almost 15 years ago to the day – Hurricane Isabel made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane. The storm, which tracked over North Carolina and just southwest of Hampton Roads, resulted in $5.5 billion of damage to the Mid Atlantic, according to the most recent National Hurricane Center’s “costliest U.S. tropical cyclones” table. Isabel comes in at number twenty.

As of this writing, Hurricane Florence is making a similar track with greater strength. Already the Outer Banks has been ordered to evacuate, as well as all Zone A regions in Virginia. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and President Donald Trump have declared the commonwealth to be in a state of emergency for both a state and federal response. The U.S. Navy fleet homeported in Norfolk is underway. Gas stations along the VA-168 bypass, among other places, are already dry.

When you read this, the storm will be over. But having lived through Isabel, here’s what I hope we see happening here already.

Patience. We will have just lived through a significant weather event. While some who live here were assigned to this location because of their work, a vast majority of us made the personal decision to take up roots in this area.

For a myriad of reasons, we have chosen the risk of making this our home, in full knowledge that every year from June through November there is the possibility we’re going to see one of these monsters.

Because this was our choice, it is incumbent upon us to take some personal responsibility for mitigating damage to life and property. And, my hope is that most of you who were told to evacuate did so that the lives of first responders were not needlessly put at risk.

It is also important for us to remember that because this was our choice, we are really not owed a thing. It is likely that many, many people are here helping us trying to recover and they are doing all they can for us. We should not have expectations of prompt service. We will be in triage.

Those with the most damage and most urgency of need must be cared for first. Look out for your neighbor and for those helping us.

Also, know that resources will be scarce and traffic will be snarled. It’s just going to be that way for a little while. We’ll get through it. It might be uncomfortable. It might be annoying. But be patient.

Community. In all likelihood, we are rallying together as a community.

Following Isabel, whether it was in my neighborhood or clearing downed trees at my church, I distinctly remember how everyone rallied together. Neighbors spoke to and cared for one another.

First responders, lineman, construction crews – all we’re shown respect and given a helping hand, a drink of water, or a place to rest.

My hope is that we are doing this again and are being made stronger, together.

Gratitude. Some of us will have suffered little-to-no damage. Others might have lost everything. But if we are all alive, we will recover.

Regardless, there will be much to be grateful for, even in the darkest moments. It might come as little solace staring at the foundations of a washed away home.

But homes can be rebuilt, and lives can be restored.

The truth is that people will show tremendous care, compassion, and love for one another in these next few days. And people are resilient. For that, we should all be grateful.

My hope in writing these words, as I get ready to finish my own storm preps, is that the storm abates and that we will have much to be grateful for – with minimal damage or impact on our lives.

However, I believe that the likelihood is that this storm is going to impact us in ways that we just don’t understand yet. Hopefully, with patience, community, and gratitude, it will impact us positively, regardless of what might have happened to us materially.

My prayers go out to all of you.

This column appears in The Princess Anne Independent News