Disaster often brings out the best in people

Driving into Hyde County, N.C., the welcome sign says, “The Road Less Traveled.”

The saying applies to people, not hurricanes. The last time a hurricane traveled through here, it was 1999. People in the eastern part of North Carolina are still recovering from that one. Then came Hurricane Isabel.

The Category 2 hurricane sent salt water surges ranging from 5 feet to 12 feet. In Chowan County, N.C., the city of Eden faced the force of surges of up to 12 feet.

On U.S. 264, coming across a bridge into Hyde County, you can see the Intercoastal waterway. The water opens up to farmland after a while. It has some of the most fertile farmland on the East Coast. There are references to “the blacklands” that pre-date this country's founding. In the early part of the last century, it was touted as the “Breadbasket of the Northeast.” Then the Great Depression came.

As I made my way through eastern North Carolina a week after Hurricane Isabel hit, the song that was playing on my radio and in my head took on greater significance.

Country star Marty Stuart sings a song called “Farmer's Blues.” He's accompanied by country legend Merle Haggard. One line continued to play in my head as I looked at the latest devastation: “I work the land, I watch the sky; I talk to God and wonder why; but it's the only life I know, these farmer's blues.”

Last year we were talking about the severity of the drought and how many farmers might not survive. Today, it's a hurricane.

Even in this devastation I saw farmers pitching in to help others through the hardship. I heard of farmers on tractors out clearing fallen trees for neighbors and helping out any way they could.

Back on the radio, I listened to two broadcasters who had been going at it every day for a week from 6 a.m. until well after dark, providing updated information as it became available.

How does a person deal with such devastation and find the will to carry on?

That's a difficult question.

Visiting with Dick and Sandra Tunnell shed some light on this type situation. First, they've still got their family. Second, they'll tell you they don't have it as bad as others they have heard about or seen. Third, they've got their faith. Fourth, they say “we intend to survive.”

As I drove across the bridge heading back to Beaufort County, N.C., and points south, I was thinking my faith had grown as well.

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