Last week’s broadcast of “Good Morning America” from Lumberton Junior High devoted a fraction of the two-hour show to Robeson County and Lumberton’s recovery from Hurricane Matthew, but had a cathartic effect that could promote and expedite the healing process.
The eight-minute segment focused on a rainbow coalition of four educators — Angela Faulkner, the principal at the junior high, her counterpart at West Lumberton Elementary, Tara Bullard, and school counselors Felicia Hunt and Vicki McGuirt — for their above-and-beyond approach to helping students at that school and West Lumberton Elementary who lost so much to rising waters.
But those four would be the first to tell you that there are literally hundreds, no thousands, of others who have similar stories of self-sacrifice on Oct. 8 when the focus was saving lives and limbs, and the days, weeks and months that have followed, when the focus has been returning normalcy to the lives of those who were the hardest hit. That road is still being traveled and it stretches well beyond the horizon.
The ABC show, while highlighting those four, actually shined a positive light on all of Robeson, which certainly suffers an image problem, often deserved, but sometimes not so much. We hope that viewers were inspired by watching people of all colors and stations in life in an impoverished county made even poorer from a day of heavy rain, putting aside our differences and working together to overcome what was a common enemy — the destruction that Matthew wrought.
We get nitpicked plenty, so we don’t like being the nitpicker, but we wished the show has devoted a minute or so to Tommy Lowry, our former superintendent, who we know also went above and beyond while inheriting an impossible situation, trying to lead a school system that was in total disarray, and having to do so without a desk and a telephone. But if that had happened, what was intended as a feel-good story would have become political.
The best benefit of the show was that it underlined this county’s spirit, its willingness to overcome, and perhaps that came easier for us as because our history is one of perseverance.
But there will be tangible benefits as well.
Lowe’s Home Improvement, which is headquartered in North Carolina, donated $50,000 to help resurrect Parkview Activity Center, where so many of those children affected by Matthew found joy, and Disney, ABC’s parent company, made a pledge as well to build a park in the city. We know also that Second Harvest Food Bank of Southeast North Carolina, which is headquartered in Fayetteville, has seen an upsurge in donations after the show challenged people to Dare to Donate a Dollar.
This newspaper plans updates on all three of those stories.
We said early on following the hurricane that we knew there would be a swift and overwhelming response to Matthew, both public and private, but we worried about what would happen when the camera’s eye turned in a different direction. Most of the long-term challenges that Matthew dealt this county, primarily finding permanent housing for those who lost their homes, remain.
“Good Morning America’s” visit put a camera back on this county and reminded people that much has been done, but more is left to do.