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Hurricane Floyd survivors thankful


For some North Carolina residents caught in the path of devastating Hurricane Floyd, Thanksgiving brought a renewed spirit.

Just two months ago, Floyd's rains virtually submerged many communities in North Carolina's eastern half, washing away years of hard work and irreplaceable possessions for some survivors. But as residents throughout the Tobacco State celebrated Thanksgiving -- be it in a new home, their old dwelling, or a government-sponsored unit -- many looked around the dinner table and the neighborhood and felt thankful for each other.

In tiny Pollocksville, population 500, floodwaters displaced 81 area families and affected several others. As needs assessments continue, Pollocksville United Methodist Church pastor Jim Hayes said the community can be thankful for the dedicated, concerned people in town who reached out in a time of need and became true neighbors to each other.

"We've had a committee together since this first happened to help people not only physically but emotionally," he said. "Our basic theme has been two options: We can either be victims or survivors. And our attitude has been that we're going to survive this."

Despite four major storms in the past three-and-a-half years, residents of Goldsboro are also optimistic about the recovery, said the Rev. Charles Moseley of St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

"Folks are getting along pretty good in comparison to where we thought we would be," he said, adding that the various recovery and volunteer agencies continue to assist the Goldsboro area. "For the most part, people are picking up and moving on (with their lives) and not looking back."

The worst of the post-Floyd depression subsided, said Moseley, although an interdenominational effort is under way to provide counseling to the community.

Giving continues to play a role in the recovery. Moseley distributed some $3,000 from his pastor's discretionary fund, and several North Carolina United Methodist churches are collecting Christmas decorations for people who lost everything.

"People have been in a spirit of giving here since the storm," he said. "I love to see the bright look on people's faces."

Homes in Pollocksville and other Carolina communities are still drying out, and Hayes acknowledged that it's difficult for people to be outside of their homes during the holidays. Hope for better times is buoyed by the outpouring of help both locally and nationally and the compassionate support from the faith community.

"It's been really encouraging that people want to help," said Hayes, adding that several faith-based and secular organizations offered cleanup and construction services.

Encouraging, too, is the ministry that presents itself during times of crisis. In Hayes' church, a lay leader lost his home to floodwaters. At a meeting of area pastors, this person referred to Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan and the parable of who is our neighbor. "He said, 'In the last few weeks I have been able to see who my neighbors are,' " Hayes said.

As survivors begin to piece their lives together, stark reminders of Floyd remain. Only two weeks ago, a farm field near Goldsboro remained under water, and a neighborhood has been virtually wiped out.

But good memories survive as well, including the physical and emotional support that poured in faster then the devastating floodwaters. Moseley recalled a New Orleans man, who was received into St. Luke's more than 30 years ago, who telephoned the church and tearfully expressed concerned about his old hometown.

"We got that kind of feeling from the whole country," Moseley said. "It'll make the holiday a better holiday."

Posted Nov. 26, 1999

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