Hurricane Matthew, with its historic flooding, left a lot at our doorsteps, most of it unwelcome. But there is one thing it challenged us with that we now have no choice but to embrace — and that is opportunity.
The hurricane, using our beloved Lumber River to do its dirty work, washed away so much of what is precious to us, homes, vehicles, possessions of measurable value and simply sentimental, jobs, and neighborhoods as we have grown them, leaving us all to wonder how we will look a year from now and even in decades to come.
None of Robeson County was spared, but nowhere was the destruction more crippling than in West Lumberton, which is chronicled today in two page 1A stories by Managing Editor Sarah Willets, and South Lumberton, whose destruction we will memorialize as soon as we can find the time. These communities straddle the river, so when it swelled to record heights, they got hit first and heaviest.
These communities were vulnerable as well because neither is wealthy, and they are among the city’s most ancient, with a majority of businesses and homes having been built more than a half a century ago, so they crumbled easily in Matthew’s path.
For many who live or do business there, the first question they will ask themselves will be: Do I rebuild here or elsewhere?
We expect that many of those who were affected will prove themselves stubborn, and will make a decision that now is no time to begin anew elsewhere, that they will not let Matthew win again, and that they will rebuild.
They will need help — and a lot of it.
FEMA is here and engaged, but the federal dollars will meet only a fraction of the cost. Truckloads of items that are needed in the short term are arriving every day to unload food, water and clothing at two Lumberton warehouses, and efforts are emerging to collect “gently-used” furnishings that will be needed for when houses are rehabilitated and once again can be called homes.
There are efforts by both the city and county to collect monetary donations, and it must be determined how exactly those dollars will be used, but we know they will directly benefit those who have lost the most.
Muscle is what is really needed, strong backs who clean out the mess, eliminate the mold, hammer the nails, hang the Sheetrock, lay the shingles, provide the power and plumbing, paint the walls, and lay the landscape. We expect businesses, nonprofits, and individuals to provide much of this, but faith-based organizations we are confident will disproportionately respond to all the prayers that are being sent. We have heard of one organization that plans to call Lumberton home for as many as two years.
We know it’s hard, but if you close your eyes and squeeze them hard, we believe you will see a West Lumberton, a South Lumberton, as well as other neighborhoods that are rebuilt bigger and stronger than they were on Oct. 7.
Ours might be a Pollyannaish view, but that is what times as these demand.