I give thanks to God that I am alive to write these words, for there are others that can not say this. Their lives were ended way before their time. Hurricane Matthew came to us all as an uninvited guest, that stayed way too long. These words are just a look into what I saw come and go in my personal dealings with this monster. I know that there were others that have suffered much more than I could ever imagine. These thoughts put to print are what my eyes have seen in the past few days. I, like others, had days to prepare and I did so to the best of my ability. As we all know you can not prepare for everything, you can not prepare for the unknown. I have seen the roads flood here in Richmond County several times. I’ve watched the creeks and ponds overflow. It’s not new to any of us. It comes and goes.
On Saturday, I did my normal routine of going and getting me a pork chop biscuit from Biscuitville. Nothing was unusual other than a heavy rain that had started the night before. I only thought I knew what was coming. Boy, was I in for the surprise of my life. I opened the doors to my shop and went in to find that water was already coming through the bottom of my outside wall. It was not real bad at 9 a.m. In the days before, I had moved my stock from the floor to higher ground — but not quite high enough it seems.
As the early hours of morning went by, the quarter-inch of water on the floor went to two inches . This was by 11:30 a.m. By 12:30, Hwy 74 was flooded, this being all lanes coming and going. My parking lot was already a running river. Every time a truck went by a wave came from his movement through the water. At 1 p.m., the waves were lapping at my sidewalk and coming over the top. By this time, it was apparent that if I did not leave, I was not going to get out. As I write these words a sickening feeling comes over my body.
At that time I had no idea that in the next few hours, I would be jobless and homeless. I know it will not last but at this moment it is hard to deal with. As I tried to get home, I found that roads had already flooded and many trees were down on the roads. Road blocks were everywhere. I did make it home to find that my road bed had been washed out. I was home and I was getting in one way or the other, again I thought. As I went around the bend in the road, it was standing in 18 inches of raging water. This only gets better.
At that point, I saw one of my oak trees had been uprooted; it had taken down my power line. This also blocked the road in. There was no way in and I did not know if I could back up with out being pushed into the creek bed. I had no choice but to try. After getting to higher ground I was in shock as what to do. I sat there and called my mother. I had to talk to someone. As we talked, I watched in horror as one more of my giant oaks was uprooted and crushed the roof of my home. It not only crushed the upstairs roof but the first floor roof. It broke the back of my home. I don’t even know how to express my feelings of watching this. Right now, my whole body is trembling with these thoughts.
After making it into the house, it was more than I could stand. The tree punched a hole through roof and ceiling over my bed. The upstairs was soaked, my bed destroyed. The walls were cracked, the sheet rock was ripped. Everywhere there was damage. One of the main beams downstairs in the living room is bowed from the weight of the tree. Water was coming through my ceiling fan. Water had ran through the exterior wall from upstairs, now the downstairs ceiling has an 8-foot crack in it. I had nowhere to go, as I knew people I know had problems of their own to deal with. I could not burden them. I sat in the dark, just thinking and not really understanding how my world had been turned upside down in a matter of hours.
I did fall asleep only to be awakened by another tree falling. It missed the house by 10 feet. This happened at 1 a.m. There was no sleep to be had from that time until Sunday night. As I relive this, my nerves are shot. On Sunday, the house was secured so no more damage would take place. Now it was time to go to my shop. When I stepped onto the floor, I was standing in five inches of water. I now know I had about nine inches on the floor at one point. Things that I thought were off the floor good enough were not. I don’t even care to think about what my losses were, I still have my life. I will come back. I had no insurance for the flooding. Those costs will come from my pocket. I know that I was not alone, we all lost something on this past Saturday.
We have seen Mother Nature at her best and worst, and if we live long enough will see it again. On Sunday, the sun did shine and it was a beautiful day. I must address one other matter in this column. I know there will be those that will get a sick pleasure from my personal pain, that’s fine with me. Just remember: “What goes around comes around.”
The reason I say this: Online, there were several people — that actually are the same person — that had issue with my column “Feeling sorrow’s touch.” That column was written to try to help those that had been touched by death, to let you know that you were not by yourself, as we have all grieved. It was stated that I wanted to be looked upon as a martyr because I had to deal with death. I don’t think so. The ones online were told that you should not make fun of the death of a child. They in-turn stated “we’re not making fun of the child, we’re making fun of Robert Lee.”
You were making fun of me telling you the story of a child dealing with the death of a child. You also said “get over it it’s been 50 years ago.” I don’t care if it’s been 2000 years ago, some of us still grieve over the death of Jesus. To grieve is to grieve, there is no time limit on it. What type of person could get pleasure out of a grieving child’s story of the death of a loved one? Your name matters not for you are as insignificant as a fly speck. To make fun of someone, anyone that’s grieving, tells the whole story about you. I put you with Hurricane Matthew, you are an uninvited guest that just needs to go away and take your hate with you.
The county has suffered together. We will rebound together. Our faith in better days and our Lord is all we need to carry us forward as one.
Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.