Storms Brought Out the Best In Us
Coming to work Monday morning, I watched a near-full moon wash freshly plowed fields. By the time I hit campus, the blue skies had diminished the moon and brought us a spectacular day.
Such a contrast to the weekend, when the Old North State took the full measure of Mother Nature’s wrath. All day Saturday, as the storm front moved across the state, we worried about our friends, scattered in Raleigh, Greensboro, Greenville, and the small towns that hold family and friends. We made calls, texted, and e-mailed, wanting to hear two simple words: “I’m OK.”
In my own town, I was confronted with one of life’s cruel ironies. On Saturday night, I had to produce identification that proved I lived in Rowland, just to have access to my home. And what I found there, when I got past the barriers and the stern-faced law enforcement officials, was a story replayed at least 60 times across the state.
Rowland is divided by State Road 301. I live on the western side of town, one mile from that dividing line. A few limbs scattered on the streets were the only signs of the storm that had blown through at 3:30 p.m. But to the east, Rowland looked like a war zone.
The tornado mercifully failed to totally touch down, but it was close enough to topple virtually every tall tree in its path. The devastation stopped short of human toll, but every street on that end of town was impassable.
For the long hours into midnight, people wandered the streets, carefully stepping over downed lines, surveying damage that had heretofore never touched “the town of a thousand friends.”
Many others woke in small towns where similar stunned citizens stumbled through the storm’s detritus, searching for lost property and searching for answers. And I was left to wonder: Why was I fortunate enough to live in the “miracle mile” — that unscathed western portion of a tiny town where too many people are already hammered by plant closures, rising unemployment, and desperate attempts to piece together enough low-paying jobs to keep their families afloat?
Sadly, such answers don’t exist.
On Sunday, life was business as usual on the western side of Rowland: Prayers. Sunshine. Flower gardens. On the eastern side, however, there was evidence of a better kind of Sunday.
Rowland was flooded with kind spirits who flocked to the town with chain saws, pickups, work gloves and good hearts. Trees were cut away from damaged homes, shouts of encouragement filled the air, and the milk of human kindness flowed.
No one complained about Washington. No one cared what the gas cost to fuel the chain saws and trucks that hauled a thousand loads of debris, and no one noticed race, gender or social status. It was just a parade of humans caring about humans.
So maybe there is the answer. The storm took much from many. But it reminded us of our larger human purpose. And it showed us our better selves. In the end, we need each other. And on that day, maybe we got an early glimpse of Easter Sunday.
Ronald Layne is dean of instruction at Sandhills Community College.
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