Destruction to Hope
A hundred year flood came twice in a two year span to Lumberton, N.C. Robeson County is one of the poorest counties in North Carolina and many people were finally finishing recovery from Hurricane Matthew right when Hurricane Florence hit. Despite the adversary, the community shows it's resiliance and endurance to prevail to rebuild again.
Outside Stephanie Graham's window she overlooks the farm that her family lives on. Almost everyone in the community has a family member or friend effected. Graham is staying at her boss' house with her two boys. She started renovating before Matthew hit. "I can’t believe this happened again," said Graham. "The city is thinking about suing CSX railroad because they could have put up a dam to prevent a lot of the flooding because that area has been flooded already."
The road in front of the Hargrave Elementary School that completely sunk. School was canceled for over a month after both hurricanes.
Tim and Sonya Hunt's house was flooded twice, but luckily Tim works in construction and is able to work on his own home. "There was a foot of water in here," said Hunt. "Sonya doesn’t want to move back in here, but this is our home."
Recovery is slow, but the N.C. Baptist Men (and women) delivered food everyday for a couple weeks following the flooding. Some of the women said they started cooking at 3 a.m. "My employer let me off for a week. I’m 53 and there’s not too many of people younger but plenty older," said Eric Holt. "I'm at the point I can afford to take off [and start] giving back to your community and country and do what god wants us to do." There are 14,000 volunteers that spend weeks or months of time. They gave out 600 meals a day.
There were volunteers from many different religious beliefs including Mormon's and Muslim's. Specfically in the Lumbee community, many come from a Christian belief system so Hunt said it was difficult for some people to see Mormon's working on their house. But Hunt said that the Mormon's that came helped him lift a 500- pound counter piece that he could no even hire someone to help him lift. Hunt said, "We moved out of Pembroke and into Lumberton because I wanted [my children] to have a better worldview," siad Hunt. "A lot of them don’t know outside Pembroke and they don’t know how the outside world believes, but I want my kids to see."
Graham and her brother girlfriend Beverly, have been living together at her boss' house. Miley Graham treats Beverly like a mother and doesn't want to leave her side even to go to a friend's house.
Steve Campbell said, "I had just put up the blinds up and had to leave six days later." His home had just finished all it's repairs from the flooding two years ago by Hurricane Matthew and suddenly there were minnow swimming past him in his living room.
Glenn Locklear was given only $300 from FEMA. When his house was beginning to flood it was the middle of the night and her heard his dog squeling from the yard. He put his feet down for them to disappear in the water. Casey, his dog, was about to drown in her kennel outside. He grabbed her and Casey swam while he waded in water to his waist seeking higher ground. He made it to the interstate that was closed off only to find no one was coming for them. He made the decision to go back to the house until a boat retrieved them the next day.
Graham is appealing the money designated by FEMA for more because the $2,500 she was given will cover a roof alone. "It will be more expensive to redo house then to buy a new trailer," said Graham.
The Baptist Relief Men rebuilt 120 houses since Hurricane Matthew. Greg Riggs, one of the lead contractors of the Baptist Relief Men, said that social economics makes this land cheap, but the cheap land goes underwater. "I didn’t want to just be a pew polisher and God’s grace I had no degrees just a contractor as my claim to fame and he allowed me to go and influence lots of people." Only eight inches of water destroys appliances and most houses got a foot or more in their house. He said that without help and man power all the money pouring in means nothing.
Drew Hammonds, goes to Hyde Baptist Church, where the Baptist Men came to deliver meals. Hammonds volunteered every day since his home was not effected. Ivanka Trump came to the church to volunteer alongside them. "This is going to keep happening unless we find another place for water to go," Hammonds said. "Folks nice, but I don’t want see them ever again." They delivered over 3,800 plates of food during the course of the relief work.
Riggs, retired from the construction business after 45 years, but all his sons continue in construction work. "Raised on construction site back tose days kids could work," said Riggs. "Made a good living at it." He graduated from college and got married the next weekend. He sometimes goes up to two months without seeing his wife while volunteering with the Baptist Men. Even though he leads the team rebuilding houses, he doesn't believe in sitting back and giving orders, but puts in the manual labor with the group.
Roele Leonard, a FEMA worker said, "I travel place to place for tornados, earthquakes, but it's nothing special what I do." He was born in the Bahamas and graduated after 9th grade. His job is to do whatever locals need to rebuild; which sometimes includes gutting a house, but also includes driving them to the doctor or listening to struggles they are facing. Leonard said, "You get attached to nice people and old people, but it's a conflict of interest so I can never go back [and see them]."
An angel statue that Campbell's mother, Margaret, bought before she passed around the same time as the Hurricane Matthew. "My primary reason is not to go in the house and get paid because we get 00 dollars, but to be the hands and feet of Christ," said Riggs. "[With] every meal [or house we rebuild] we make sure they understand we are doing this to share Christ [because] as much as they need money they need hope."