We’ve seen it on TV — the videos of families in the Midwest picking through what’s left of their homes after damaging tornadoes sweep across the farmlands. We’ve watched as children stand in the rubble, clutching a teddy bear, as their mothers and fathers pick up the pieces of what is left of their lives. But that was just television.
On Saturday, our community lived that picture as a devastating tornado swept its way up Reilly Road, across Yadkin Road and on up to Ramsey Street. It was not some unknown farmer in the Midwest who was sifting through the rubble. It was our neighbors and our friends.
The streets, eerily silent, did not belong to strangers. They were ours. And when the city declared a curfew and people were turned away from their neighborhoods, the power and fury of the storm was a reality in our lives.
At this writing one Cumberland County resident is dead, dozens injured, hundreds left homeless and millions lost in property damage. Statewide more than 20 people have lost their lives. When compared to other areas in the southeast we should consider ourselves blessed.
In the midst of the storm, it would have been easy for those effected and for the city and county leadership to throw up their hands and give up. But they didn’t.
I was extremely impressed with how our city and county rallied to meet the needs of its residents. On Sunday, a news conference was held and the Cumberland County-City of Fayetteville Joint Emergency Operations Center personnel updated the media on the status of the community. It was heartwarming to see and hear how we, as a community and government, responded to this natural disaster.
Ken Edge, chairman of the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, expressed so eloquently the appreciation for the hard work and spirit of cooperation shown by city and county departments that persevered during this crisis.
The Highlands Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cumberland County Emergency Services, City of Fayetteville Police and Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department personnel were there along with State Representatives Rick Glazier and Elmer Floyd, Senator Eric Mansfi eld, City Councilman Ted Mohn, Asstistant School Superintendent Tim Kinlaw, County Manager James Martin and Commissioners Ed Melvin, Jimmy Keefe and Charles Evans.
Everyone listened attentively as offi cials told us how best we could assist the victims of the storm and what we could to get our community back to a state of normalcy. It was heartwarming to see this type of professionalism, cooperation and compassion.
The stories of tragedy; survival, luck and good fortune are numerous and incredible. We’ve read about residents huddled in storage rooms in businesses, a bathroom in another, wrapped around each other in their homes. We are fortunate that in the midst of the storm, the lives of many in our community were spared. They’ve been altered, but they will go on. However, the bottom line now is that we move on to rebuild our damaged communities.
I have no doubt that had it not been for the tornadoes, the Fayetteville Observer’s front page story on Sunday morning may have very well been about City Councilman Bobby Hurst and the hundreds of volunteers who supported the Fayetteville Beautiful campaign and hit the streets early Saturday morning under cloudy, overcast and menacing skies to pick up litter along our city streets and beautify our city.
It’s so ironic to have both events occur on the same day. However, it is reassuring to know we are as beautiful on the inside as on the outside.
If you would like to help or assist local victims, the Red Cross is accepting monetary donations. Donations may be made to the American Red Cross Highlands Chapter at 807 Carol St., Fayetteville, N.C. 28303.
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