September 20, 2018
by Billy Beasley
The area of Wilmington, NC, is my hometown, and has been such for my entire life. I was employed by the Town of Wrightsville Beach for over thirty-two years. The past sixteen years I have lived in the wonderful town of Carolina Beach. My wife Julie joined me in our current home over five years ago.
All the wonderful places I have lived, Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, and Carolina Beach are all in the small county of New Hanover. But none have been home to me like Carolina Beach is.
Like many, we evacuated with a Cat 4 storm looming. Thankfully, the storm weakened before making landfall. Considering the damage this storm has wrought on our region, I shudder to think what a Cat 4 might have done. Today the rivers are cresting inland and entire communities are flooding. Florence is the storm that seemingly will not end.
We were able to return to our home this past Monday. Thankfully our home was standing and our neighborhood did not flood. We have some water damage and probably will require a new roof. I have no complaints. We got off easy compared to so many.
Our Cattle Dog, Teke, was a trooper through it all. She came with me as I was driving to check things out, before calling to give Julie the all clear sign to follow. She didn’t even bark at the officer who checked our identification before we could access the island. Carolina Beach has a high rise bridge and at the peak of that bridge you see the Atlantic Ocean to your left, the Cape Fear River to your right. When I reach that part of the bridge I often feel as if I am leaving another world behind and entering a more tranquil place. I don’t think I have ever felt as emotional about that as I felt this past Monday.
Tears welled up as I crossed over Snow’s Cut Inlet, looking left to the ocean, then right to the brackish water of the Cape Fear River. I was entering home and the storm had strengthened my resolve that I want to live out the rest of my days in this wonderful little beach town.
Sometimes, we have speculated about selling our home and moving inland. Financially, it would make sense. But I am a beach guy and while we don’t live on the water, I can drive or bike to it in just a scant few minutes. We have a wonderful wooded park with hundreds of acres near by that Teke and I walk in nearly every morning.
If you watched on the national news, you saw our area at its worst. There was looting, which created a firestorm on social media. Racial shots fired. Some comments were subtle in their prejudice and some were not. I saw reports of price gouging. There were long lines at the gas pumps for the very few stores that had gas to sell. Some people cut in line, threatening others so they could get their gas. There were reports of fights.
That is sad but it is not indicative of who we are. I have seen far more good than bad. Lifepoint Church, our church, had the foresight to plan ahead to be a distribution center. We had other churches join us with aid. Sunday, I worked along side members of Elevation Church, from Charlotte, NC. Mercy Chefs cooked hot meals that fed thousands this week. Convoy of Hope came to our region and gave out much needed supplies. Hundreds of cases of water were given to those in need.
We were not alone. Many churches fed hungry people and gave out more than supplies. They gave out hope. They reminded people that they were not forgotten. Crews from many churches went out to clean yards and to help people in distress. There is no way I can sum up all the kind, wonderful tasks performed for people in need. Rescues continue inland as the waters rise and not only of people but animals were saved that were left behind.
There have been so many moving scenes. None more poignant than the first responders, who were unable to save a mother and her child after a tree crashed through their home in the midst of the storm. Those emergency members knelt and prayed and for one day it seemed it was okay for that to be on the national news.
While others seek to profit from this storm, I have witnessed over the past two days a man near our home set up with cases of bottled water. His asking price, free.
We have seen line trucks come from as far away as Canada to aid us. I don’t think you can grasp what a lift in your spirits seeing a convoy of line trucks emerge on your area can produce unless you have lived through days without power in the heat and humidity of the south. They worked in the relentless rain that refused to stop.
There is simply no way to mention all those that have aided this area so much. And probably most don’t want the accolades for doing what they believe is right. They simply wanted to help others.
What I hope is gleaned from this is not only that the good far outweighs the bad. I hope we can carry this compassion forward as our lives return to normal. Maybe when the traffic congests here as it surely will, I can remember the many who evacuated and could not drive home for days due to road closures from flooding and washouts. Maybe that one item that is out of stock at the grocery store is not a big deal considering many went without a hot meal for days.
Let’s try to hang on to the lessons. God help me to first. I leave you with a few photos.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
Billy is the author of The River Hideaway - a traditionally published work of faith based fiction and the newly published novel, The Preacher's Letter. He shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in this novel. Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’.
You can read Billy’s regular “Sunday Inspiration” column on the second Sunday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.