It appears that unless you go in with something like this it becomes rather difficult to enter a disaster area. The Red Cross is supposed to be the coordinating organization but they were the least visible on the ground. The most visible were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons). When I heard of this calamity on the television of thought, “Well, here’s a disaster and I won’t have to drive for twenty hours for or fly to Sri Lanka, India or Haiti. It was less than three hours away so on Monday morning I got up at 6 and drove off to help.
I arrived before nine and met Pastor Mark Medley of the Fayetteville Nazarene Church in the church parking lot where they were loading up the trailer. Originally, I had come with my prep knives to cook for them but once I got there it seemed that there wouldn’t be such a big crew so we ate at Subway and from the generous people who came along with water and sandwiches. One family (four teenaged girls) went around with their grill in the truck bed frying hamburgers and hot dogs for the various exhausted workers.
The way this works is church first, parsonage next, church members and finally anyone else that might need a hand. Since the church and parsonage were untouched we went right to the area most affected, Cottonade a community of eight hundred homes near the Fort Bragg military base. Since we had not yet received our clearance we were turned away until after lunch when we made arrangements to meet church members Al and Rita Bledsoe at the check point. With them making request we rolled in.
Up to this point things looked relatively normal, that is until we turned the corner. It was amazing. I grew up in tornado alley so I have seen my share of the devastation left by tornadoes. This was a F3 and certainly not the worst it could have been but it looked like a bomb went off. Trees are wonderful things when they are standing. The Cottonade housing development will be without shade for many years to come. Hundreds, even thousands of one-hundred fifty year old, one-hundred fifty feet high pine trees were shattered half way down and others uprooted and hurled everywhere as though the were match sticks. Car after car and roof after roof were smashed.
Many people just sat on the porch and watched seemingly in shock. Several I talked to seemed distraught and there was an air of confusion, hopelessness and helplessness everywhere. All many people were doing is simply sitting and waiting for someone to show up and offer a solution or help. Trying to pick up twigs seems useless when there are ten trees the size of three telephone poles uprooted and tangled together in your front yard. God only knows what will happen to those who have no insurance. Some had already just took what they could and left their homes behind – what were left of them. It will be three-months before the power is restored.