Rose and I thank all those who called or emailed inquiring as to our status and whether we were still homeowners. Our house on Myrtle Island is a little worse for wear, and we are 10 or 12 trees poorer than before the storm, but we are infinitely richer in that we have made a number of new friends, and renewed old acquaintances in the crucible of hard, demanding work as we clean up our neighborhood.
The stories we are hearing bear a close resemblance to ours, in that we prudently evacuated, only to realize our refuge was soon without power or water. After doing what I could to secure Rose’s father’s house (our refuge) in Manning, I gathered tools, chainsaw and generator and headed back to Bluffton.
The trip home gave me a taste of what our state had endured, and not a small amount of anxiety about what might be waiting for me in Bluffton. The house was intact, but the yard had trees down all over, including a couple of “leaners” that would have to be taken care of by professionals when they finished the truly dangerous work of removing trees from the roofs of many of my neighbors.
In the chaotic early going, with roads blocked and power lines dangling, we as a neighborhood came together and did what we could do to clear pathways to damaged homes, and empathize over destroyed or missing docks and boats.
The experience was sobering but inspirational in a way, seeing how folks came together, not only on Myrtle Island but all around Bluffton, Beaufort and Jasper counties, as well as throughout our state.
As soon as Hwy. 278 was clear and Bluffton was open, the aid trucks started arriving, along with utility truck convoys from all over the country. Frozen food that had thawed a bit did not go to waste as community meals were organized, feeding first responders, utility workers, along with those who stayed, and finally a flow of returning evacuees.
The state sent down a crew from the Department of Employment and Workforce to help folks with paperwork and help those who lost jobs find work with businesses who needed extra workers.
The Department of Insurance organized a pair of very valuable events in the parking lot of Home Depot on 278. They helped a great many people who had insurance but couldn’t exactly understand what was covered and what was not.
An army of insurance adjusters began combing the neighborhoods, taking photos and helping with the complex paperwork that will eventually result in repairs and rebuilding.
The cooperation between the different layers of government was a little shaky at first, which is understandable given the scope of the disaster. Within a day or two, there were a few kinks left, but overall, the governmental response was timely and robust.
In fact, I am still in awe of what was accomplished in a relatively short time.
At this point, my most powerful emotion is one of profound gratitude.
Weston Newton is the representative for District 120 in the State House of Representatives.