Well, here we go again.
Eastern North Carolina is flooded with water, trees are down and homes are destroyed.
But we will lace up our wading boots, dust off our shop-vacs and start to rebuild.
Last Friday, I sat with my daughter on my couch with the television glued to the Weather Channel and my laptop glued to Facebook.
You know that expression “It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion?” Well, it was just like that — except the train was Category 1 hurricane the size of the state of North Carolina. But it did seem to be moving in slow motion.
I cried off and on throughout the day as I watched my hometown get covered by storm surge.
“Babe, just cut it off,” my girlfriend pleaded, as she saw the stress I was going through.
But I couldn’t look away.
Besides being heartbroken, I found myself frustrated that I couldn’t be on the front lines helping my people. But I had my my own family to look after for the moment. So I used Facebook for what it was initially intended for: connecting people (not dividing them).
I reached out to old classmates that lived in the area who knew what was going on and who needed help. Then I reached out to old classmates who were out of the area and, like me, wanted so desperately to help but didn’t know how.
There was enough love and support going around I decided to capitalize on it.
Sunday night, my mom sent me pictures from The Point, our river home in Aurora, which wasn’t destroyed as badly as 2011’s Irene, but sustained a lot of damage. We lucked out, in a way. Many people had it much worse. But that was the last straw. I created a GoFundMe campaign so that Washington and eastern NC natives who didn’t live there anymore could band together and help.
I called it “WHS (Washington High School) Alumni – Florence Support Fund.”
There was an immediate outpouring of support and I noticed something.
Among all this carnage and chaos, love was rising above the noise. People were coming together and doing whatever needed to be done to help their neighbors and community members.
For once, people weren’t bickering about ideologies but were simply asking: “Who needs help and what can I do?”
We all have family and friends that we want to be safe, we all have personal belongings that hold special meaning in our lives and we all have places we call home that give us shelter and comfort. It’s a shame that it sometimes take catastrophe, but during moments like these we are forced to see the similarities among us, rather than the differences.
Starting Saturday, I began to see the first steps in a long road to recovery.
First responders cut trees, climbed power lines and braved hazardous conditions to rescue people from their homes. Boats tore through the streets (now essentially creeks) to find people and pets left behind. Restaurants with power opened to feed people for free. Trucks filled with supplies traveled from all over the country to offer food, water, toiletries, and towels to those who lost everything.
I’m fascinated by the human element of all of this. The emotions were across the board: people were grieving loss, people were cherishing compassion. To put it simply: people were spreading the love. Even though this is such a devastating event to experience, that aspect is beautiful to see.
I wish we could find a way to get there more often — preferably without the disaster.
There’s still so much work that needs to be done in North Carolina. Interstate 40 looks like an actual river going to Wilmington instead of a highway. We will be rebuilding for a long time.
There are plenty of charities to give to – large and small, national and regional. That shirt in your closet that you haven’t worn in year? This is the perfect time to offload it, because someone just lost every shirt they own.
Sometimes, sadly, we need terrible events like this to get back to what matters most. It’s not the rat race at work, or the new 4K television, or who can be the first to tweet about the new restaurant in town that matters.
It’s about the love we have to spread. That’s the greatest asset we have.
Featured image by Joseph Whichard
Rain Bennett is a two time Emmy-nominated filmmaker, fitness professional, public speaker, and writer. His mission is simple: to help people realize that they too can be great, no matter where they come from or what they start with. It just takes passion, persistence, and a plan.
Bennett directed and produced his first feature length documentary in true indie fashion by traveling the world with only a backpack and a Canon DSLR camera. That film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym won “Best of the Fest” at the Hip Hop Film Festival NYC and received global distribution through Red Bull Media House. He’s been featured in publications like Men’s Health and Sports Business Global and is a regular contributor to Breaking Muscle. When he’s not making movies or training clients at Sync Studio in Durham, he’s hosting a new webseries called The Perfect Workout Show.