Mr. President, an invitation to come see us


Dear President Obama,

We have an urgent request to make: Please board Air Force One and get to Robeson County.

The timing isn’t urgent, although we hope you don’t delay too long. But it is important that you come see us, because in doing so you will turn the nation’s eyes — actually the world’s — in our direction, and what will surely follow is the outpouring of support, both private and public, that will be essential for our county to fully recover from the wrath of Hurricane Matthew.

We are a prideful people, rich in many ways, but not when measured by dollars. We are God-fearing, hard-working and we are resilient, and truthfully, we hate to ask. But we are not dumb and we know when we are in trouble. Though the sky is blue, the future is cloudy

We will need all the might that can be mustered and ushered here to recover, and even then, it will be years.

We are sure you have seen some of the destruction, but you need to see this with your own eyes. Still photos and 30-second video clips do not begin to explain the magnitude of what we face.

We will begin and actually end with this:

The Lumber River, which at its widest before Oct. 8 was maybe the length of a football field, grew after Matthew’s torrential rains to about a mile wide. Consider that, Mr. President, a mile-wide river that dissects the middle of Lumberton, the county seat with 20,000 inhabitants, causing devastation that has never been seen — or even imagined.

Washed away have been homes, businesses, churches, places to play, all of the things that make life worth living. Three precious lives have been lost in this destruction, but that number will grow, and we can only hope not by as much as we fear.

We could write for weeks on the devastation, but we much prefer you get a look yourself. We don’t know for sure because our eyes are inward, not outward, but we hear nowhere in this nation is Matthew’s mess larger than in Robeson County and Lumberton. So we are a logical stop.

You would like the people here. We are unique, and yes, that is the right word, a mix of four races, American Indian at 40 percent, whites at 32 percent, blacks at 23 percent, and Hispanics at 5 percent, so we represent the kind of diversity that you have encouraged this nation to embrace. Robeson County turned out hard for you in 2008 and again in 2012.

We are poor, among the poorest counties in the United States, but not because we don’t work hard, but because we have a population of people who have been denied historically, in education early on and then opportunity, and we continue to struggle to catch up. Perhaps the day will come when Hurricane Matthew and Oct. 8, 2016, will be remembered differently, the day that Robeson County was swallowed up by waters, but was later lifted to a new rung with the help of others.

We know you are busy, and we don’t want this to be political; you are nearing the end of your eight years in office, so there are no votes to be gained by coming, nor lost by staying away.

But you have built a presidency on the premise of generosity, that all Americans reach out and help our neighbors regardless of their race, religion, sexual orientation. You know, all those things that ultimately don’t matter because beyond that we are all the same.

This is a chance to add another block to that legacy.

We hope to see you soon.

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