Back at the helm…
It has been a long time since I got anything out to you guys. Please forgive me but this summer, the family and I have been shaking things up. But we are starting to get the wheels of life put back on and I hope to be able to start cranking out some new material for you. Until then, just a quick recap of what has been going on in this little part of the world.
When I last left off, I was at the beach with the extended family. We enjoyed a great week of hanging out with my parents and my brother along with his family. Not much to add about this week because with 99% of all beach vacations, even if it is bad and there is a hurricane in the area. It is still pretty good. In June there were no hurricanes and no complaints from anyone so it was great. But during the week, we got a couple of pieces of news that did dramatically alter the course of the summer.
The bad news first. Back home in West Virginia, there was a massive flood that ravaged several counties in the state. The good news is that our county was not affected but the bad news was that some of the most damaging flooding was only fifty miles. We got back from the beach on the first Sunday following the floods that happened on Thursday night. Already, the email was filling up with requests for help. That Monday, we went to the store and bought some supplies to donate. It was not very impressive to see what 200 dollars bought at Wal-Mart. On Tuesday morning we loaded up what felt like a few bags and went to the closest relief center which was in Clendenin, West Virginia. It was important to my wife and I that we took the kids so that they could share in the event. We both feel that we can talk forever about the need to be a good neighbor but having the opportunity to show them what it really looks like is priceless.
Driving the back roads to get to the center of town, I really felt like I was in a war zone. The National Guard was out in force with their oversized dessert tan camouflaged vehicles blocking damaged roads or hauling tons of debris out of the area. Arriving at the relief center, it was as unorganized an operation as anything I ever saw on the first week of any new base that I helped to start during a deployment. There were people everywhere. To their credit, there were hundreds of volunteers. I mean literally, hundreds at this one site and there were a number of other sites within a five-mile circle of Clendenin. The one person we did meet is a State Senator named Chris Walters. I don’t normally say nice things about politicians but Senator Walters is the real deal. He spent literally days trying to help his constituents. Until I met Senator Walters, I expected to see the politicians in the area for their five-minute photoshoot. But Senator Walters is working on his second consecutive month of actually leading the cleanup effort.
That is Senator Walters in the red vest. I am convinced that he is the hardest working person in the state. According to a guy I spoke with, the water was over the ceiling inside the grocery store. The river is about 50 yards behind me when I took this picture. The car you see on the right is off loading supplies. There are no cars in line to get supplies. photo from rob akers
I will say this now and I will say it again. The number of people that came to the aid of the flood victims is staggering. There was a Church group of high school kids from Florida that came to help. There were mobile food camps being set up by people from neighboring states. There were local businesses donating thousands of dollars of food and supplies. There were people taking time off work to go help. And there were the First Responders. It was so cool to see how helpful people are when a real disaster strikes. The America that Trump, Clinton or the press talk about isn’t the real America. But the people working together are all the real deal and when you see it in action, it is humbling and can only reinforce your belief that we are still a great nation.
These people didn’t just show up once but they kept showing up, day after day putting in hours and hours of work to help people they had never met. There were two lanes of traffic into and out of the relief center. One was for people who need supplies and the other was for people who were donating supplies. It was about a three to one ratio of people getting stuff to people giving stuff.
And these people were not just giving a little either. They would show up with trucks overflowing with expensive items like shovels, diapers, powdered sports drink mixes, cleaning solutions, dog food and everything else that you can imagine. Soaps, clothes, shoes, toiletries, tools, and other things were piled up everywhere mixed in with thousands of cases of water and multiple gas grills cooking hot meals for people. When a car pulled up, the people would ask for a little water or some bleach. What they got was a car full of everything. If you wanted a case of water, you got a trunk full. If you wanted some diapers, you got a month’s supply. Even if you didn’t ask for a hot meal, you got food for yourself, food for everyone in the car and food for people back at their home.
My family spent several hours trying to help and we made a scratch but the real effort is still going on. A few days later, another friend and I went back to help again. It was later in the day when we got there and at the relief center, they didn’t need our help. So he asked if I wanted to load up the truck and go find people. It was important to Will because he is from this part of West Virginia. It is personal because these are his people. It was a duty of his because he had spent the week working at the local water treatment plant as a loaner from the local water plant. He knew firsthand the how bad the devastation was because he was working at the plant when the creek rose. It came up thirty feet in a manner of minutes to the back door of the operations center. He stayed at his station because it was his duty to keep the clean water flowing as long possible. The waters subsided from the plant, which by the way is nowhere near a river or creek. It was raining so hard that the water was flowing off of the hills around the plant and creating a lake because it had no way to escape the valley.
Will directed me along the back roads, he showed me houses that had come off their foundations and floated intact a few hundred yards away from where they started. He showed me the bridge that was ten feet under water. He showed me his water plant and told me that he had never dreamed that the water could be that high. We wondered what it was like when Noah got on the Ark. We gave away all of the supplies in my truck, but we had to literally force it on people. They kept saying that they were okay and that there were people who needed it more. I felt like I was talking to someone who was drowning but didn’t want a life jacket because there were people who needed it more than they did. I am so humbled by these people and their attitudes and I have a long way to go before I am that blessed.
This was taken on a different day. It was about 7:00PM and they were shutting down operations for the day. In the background, talking on his cell phone is Senator Walters. photo from rob akers.
Lots of words here, but I feel that it is important to tell the story of how great this nation of people can really be. This is a story you will not hear on the national news. The local news still carries stories about the flooding and to my surprise, they are mostly positive stories about people helping people. Tonight there was a story about a local show choir holding a car wash to raise money to give to a show choir at a high school that was flooded out. People are still going out of their way to help their neighbors two months after the event. Again, I am humbled and find myself lacking in my humanity.
Earlier, I stated that there were two things that happened to change the course of the family’s summer. It was that we accepted an offer to sale our house. We agreed to the offer on the former casa de Rob and when we got back, we had to find a new casa de Rob. In just over a month, 32 days to be exact and starting from almost zero, we sold a house, bought a house, moved, went on a small trip to Niagara Falls and had our faith in humanity renewed. The best news possible is that I think my wife and I are going to stay married, not that was in any doubt. The next best news is that we will be keeping the kids but they and the cats are on thin ice. The new news is that hopefully soon, there will be a couple of dogs to add to the insanity. In spite of the boxes, lost household items and general disarray that follows a major family move, Life is good!
Until next time, keep on rockin.