A week and a half after Hurricane Matthew rudely ravaged its way through Robeson County, normalcy is creeping back into the lives of many local people, even if the scars of that Oct. 8 day remain visible and all around us.
Most Robeson County residents have power and water; Interstate 95 has resumed its work as the nation’s busiest highway; most local roads are clear, although there remain some bothersome detours as repair work on roads, bridges and utilities continues; people are returning to their jobs; commerce is gaining momentum; and high school football will be played soon.
During the last 10 days, we have worked closely with county, Lumberton and other municipal officials, sometimes side by side, and we can tell you they have been capable and tireless in their efforts to expedite the recovery. A special shout-out to Lumberton officials, who faced a disruption of water that might have lasted a month, but restored it in a third of that time — and with an assist from the county. They are to be commended, but a proper salute will come later.
One of the largest disruptions, the closing of our schools, continuestoday — and it’s unclear when they will be reopened. Some schools have flood damage, and when this was written four high schools continued to serve as shelters, so new temporary homes will have to be found for those displaced residents before the school bell rings again.
The worst of Hurricane Matthew has brought out the best in many of us. We have been solicited many times to tell the stories of compassion, generosity, even bravery, as local residents have taken care of each other, pushing aside the petty things that separate us, such as race and economic status. As a newspaper, we have struggled to tell those stories, overwhelmed by much that has conspired against our ability to report the news — a newsroom that still is not full staff, the loss of our building, our press temporarily disabled and, immediately following the storm, the loss of internet and power that made restricted the delivery of news to robesonian.com and social media.
We will get to those stories that show us at our best, but right now we are focused need-to-know news, information that will enable the recovery.
Our new concern is that the media will turn their camera in another direction, and toward the clown show that is the presidential race. Immediate needs, such a temporary housing, food and water, are being met, but we worry about the long-term recovery of those hit hardest by Matthew, who have lost their homes, cars, cloths, jobs, really everything worth having.
They are going to need a lot of help in the recovery, and we will kick and scream to make sure they are not forgotten.
Their day of normalcy is far away — and even when it arrives, it will be a new normal.