My time in disaster relief: day five...
I woke up this morning to the sound of rain hitting my room's window with the soft rumbles of thunder echoing dimly in the distance. If I were anywhere else, I would have loved to wake up to a rainy day. But, a rainy day in South Carolina is one that is stilled feared by residents- or so I thought.
I walked sleepily over to the window and saw a downpour of rain. I started to notice puddles of water gathering on the side of the road. Two thoughts crossed my mind at this point: Is it too soon for residents not to panic, and what about my equipment? Camera equipment is pretty expensive and not waterproof.
The only way to find out was to hit the road and find a canteen.
"You can't control mother nature. It's [rain] annoying but what can I do about it. My house has a leak in the kitchen. We can't even get it fixed because there is a delay with the insurance; but complaining about it won't fix it."
"No we aren't worried about the rain. And if anything happens there is help all around us now. I know exactly where I'm coming to eat, that's for sure!"
So maybe it was just me over reacting, anyways, there went my story idea for the day. But then... I received a call.
We had heard about a neighborhood that was still struggling from the flood. All main roads to this area were still closed. There were reports that people were hungry there and had been stuck for three days. A canteen was ready and dispatched to this location within the hour. We had to cut through a shopping center to get to a side road that you can't access from any of the main roads. I met this canteen at this location, however, they were on the opposite side of the complex and I couldn't even get them. So unfortunately I missed the huge crowd they fed, but I did get to see a glimpse of what had happened to the residents.
There is creek that runs through this neighborhood. When the water started to rise cars were submerged, first floors of the condos were flooded, and the bridges and roads washed out. I am five feet and two inches, and in this picture I am standing next a fence with the stained water line.
I had gotten word that the canteen was moving down to the lower section (where I was) and they were going to be feeding again. So while I waited I started talking to the residents.
"If we were standing right here almost a week ago we would have been swept away."
"The water was up to the door handle on my car. It's completely totaled."
"We are now down to one car, three people, three different jobs."
"We tried to stop the water from entering our home. We put down towels, clothes, anything we could find but by the end of the day the water had made it across the entire house."
"My friend didn't make it."
There comes a point when you put the camera down and it's not about capturing great photos, or keeping track of how many people you've served, but being there for someone who is hurting. Comforting them, praying with them, and letting them know "it's going to get better."
The wonderful thing about The Salvation Army is our recovery phase is long. Our presence will not be leaving this community any time soon. We will be with these survivors, helping them rebuild and heal for weeks to come.