This post may be a lot of rambling and jumbled thoughts but after seeing what I saw Sunday, it is very hard to put into words…
44 Counties in our Gorgeous State have been declared National Disasters after what the weather experts are referring to a 1,000 year flood caused by a massive amount of rain last Thursday and Friday. The damage is unbelievable, even after seeing it with my own eyes I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Let’s go back to Thursday evening, we were wrapping up our vacation at the beach, I knew it was raining at home but had no idea how bad it really was. I was standing in the bathroom with my daughter waiting on her to do her business I took my phone from my purse to browse Facebook, the first thing I saw was “2-4 year old child from Ravenswood swept away in flood waters.” My heart sank and I knew more than likely it would be one of my husbands patients because he see’s so many of the local children. He was waiting on us outside the restroom and I showed him the story. By the time we got to the car his phone was beeping with texts and 20 min later he knew who it was. “One of my sweetest appreciative little families I see.” I could hear the hurt in his voice when he said it. I hurt for him, I hurt for that mother that just lost her young child and for our community. As I sat by the pool that evening watching my kids and nephews play together I scrolled Facebook and looked at the horror that was unfolding back home. My best friend who was house sitting for us sent photos of our roof leaking over our laundry room and our yard scattered with leaves and debris but I consider us lucky and blessed. So many families were losing everything they owned, some even losing each other right in front of their eyes!
Saturday on the way home I knew that I wanted to do something to help but not sure what. I knew I wanted to turn it into a “teaching moment” for my children so they could see and hopefully grasp how badly others are hurting and how blessed we are to live on a mountain and still have our home and most of all each other. While traveling North on the WV Turnpike we passed a truck carrying a load of generators, then we passed the tiniest little pickup truck weighed down by a pallet of water, then I looked at Facebook and a friend of mine, Laura, posted about 5 families at the end of her road that didn’t have much before the flood but now truly have nothing. These families included children, elderly and pets. I knew then what I wanted to do. I turned and told my kids that the next morning we were going shopping for supplies and food for these families and driving to Elkview to meet Laura and deliver them all. I was also texting with a good friend at the time and she wanted to do that too so we made plans to shop and meet up.
Sunday morning I posted on Facebook that I was heading to the store with plans of filling my Pilot with groceries and cleaning supplies and if anyone wanted me to shop and donate for them that I would be happy to do so. Some donations came in and off to the store we went. My kids and I filled 3 Shopping Carts at Kroger! 2 at Dollar Tree! And 1 at Walmart! I haven’t shopped that much ever I think. I bought things in 5’s, for the 5 families on Laura’s road. Spaghetti O’s, Snack Cakes, Pop Tarts, Tuna Snack Kits, AppleSauce, Crackers, and some other things I can’t remember. Juice Boxes for the children there & bottled water. Cleaning Supplies, Paper Goods and Pet Food. And what seems like such a simple little thing got to me… Pillows, we took pillows because they literally did not have a pillow to lay their head on at night. That’s where it began to hit home with my kids. I packed everything tightly in my car and off we went. I met my friend Christina and she followed me and we met Laura off her exit and followed her to Elkview.
We turned down her road and she stopped for a moment to point out to our left the dried line of mud on the hillside. Looking to my right at this tiny little creek way over the hill it was and still is so hard to comprehend how in the world it turned into such a massive raging creek that high up the hill. She got back in her car and we continued just a short way up the road and stopped at what used to be or really still is the homes of these 5 families. I just sat for a few seconds trying to remember to breathe and not cry. I got out, got my kids out and we began to unload. Laura told us how an elderly lady lived in the cinder block building that was by the road, the flood waters had been up to the top of her home, she was now staying in what little was left of her neighbor’s mobile home with the 3 families that lived there. I do not know how in the world it was still standing! Windows were broken, steps and porches were caked with mud left over when the water receded. A little further to the left, was small little house where 2 children lived with their parents. A little girl about my son’s age and a little boy a bit younger. We continued unloading and talking with the residents there. They were all very thankful for what we were giving them. In some form of miracles these homes in ruins had running water! So we put the bottled water back in the car and continued up the road to give it to others.
Winding up the road we saw throw pillows in the road, gates lodged in tree’s, barns knocked over, yard toys covered with mud, I could really go on and on. My kids and I drove in silence, listening to Laura’s stories of the people that lived in these homes. These people are hard working West Virginians who were going on about their lives when in an almost instant everything was taken from them! People who have worked hard for everything own! People never given a break in life! People who would give the shirt off their back to their neighbor!
A couple men stand out in my memory of that day…when we were asking if they needed water. One, while sitting the heat trying to repair the bridge to his home said “Nah we’ll be okay there’s people who have it worse than us right now, give it to them.” Another said “Ya I could use a little water, I just gave mine to a lady down the road that didn’t have any.” This people is what West Virginian’s are like! We think of others! We band together and help one another!
“The sun may not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do” ~ JFK
After we delivered our cases of water, we dropped Laura off at her car so she could go back and help her husband pull the insulation out from under their home. On our way back home I decided to drive around some more and see how others were helping.The devastation just went on for miles and miles and miles and miles. People were setting up stations to hand out donations, grilling hot dogs, and trying to comfort others. It made me think of the Mr Rogers quote below.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers
My husband encouraged me to take my camera with me to document everything I saw but once I saw with my own eyes how bad it was, I just couldn’t, I could not bring myself to take photos of this. I mean I thought, if it were me, standing in my yard, covered in mud in the last pieces of clothing I had, trying to dry out what few possessions that might be salvageable in my yard and then look up and see someone taking a photo of the remains of my life, I would have been upset. I mean, yes, I get that this all needs to be documented to show future generations and for the news outlets to post, and I know there are many photographers driving the roads daily and taking many photos and posting them. I just, in my heart, could not bring myself to do so. So the 3 photos in this blog are the only ones I took.
I ask that you please help West Virginia in any way that you can. Even if you can’t donate money or items, please say a prayer for the people of great state. We would pray for you and yours.
Disclosure: I have worked on this email for 4 days…I just couldn’t come up with the words… I am sorry if it is rambling or truly doesn’t make sense, but so much going on in our state right now doesn’t make sense.