Penultimate Post (I hope!)

At last we have reached the beginning of the end of our journey together with Florence. I was thrilled this afternoon to learn that the State of Emergency will be lifted at 6 a.m tomorrow, Monday, October 1st. It seems like I’ve been playing “whack-a-mole” all this time, trying to solve one problem or answer one question, only to have the solution or answer generate two or three more. I’ve learned a lot. I have loved “meeting” each of you. The last two days, where I was able to put so many names and faces together was so much fun. I could feel your stress, your frustration, and often, your anger.

Each of us who has been trying avidly to get all of us the information we so desperately sought, also had our moments when we threw our hands up, and might have overshared before we were able to regain composure. For me, this is all forgivable and forgettable. Each of us reacts to stress in different ways. Our thresholds vary dramatically. Yet it has been fun to see everyone bounce back with great humor and camaraderie. Crying didn’t help at all, but laughing certainly has. Being in the same boat with you has been an experience I will cherish.

When we first came to BHI and began playing competitive croquet, we started to learn so much about our fellow players. As our social circle tightened, I began to learn about the deep sorrows that many of these new friends carried. I had never come across such a high concentration in one place of people who had suffered unimaginable losses. Coincidence, or the healing power of nature, the infinity of the night sky, and the constancy and variability of the ocean seem to help. The vastness and diversity of it all increases the appreciation of how truly small we and our problems are relative to time and space.

In our short time together, the impacts of this storm have brought back painful losses and stresses many of us have faced. The waiting, the worrying, the fears.Truly gut-wrenching stuff. But we only feel that way about things we genuinely love. There is no doubt that few people are blessed to share a love of place like we are. It is an extraordinary piece of this earth.

As we change our focus from Knowing what we face, to fixing what’s broken, questions about a zillion things are already beginning to be asked. Thinking this was going to be a three-day event with no major impacts, I started to keep a short list of web links and ideas to share when we were called back.

One of BHB’s members has a web business and offered to help get a web site together as her contribution to the community-wide volunteer effort. Tapping several very talented friends to work with her, a site has been created and it should go live momentarily. Although we hoped it could be linked to the Village web site so that all information about Florence could be found in one place, that was not to be. Our homeowners group, the Bald Head Association stepped in. They, too have been compiling helpful sites to share with owners on the myriad resources that might be useful – all in one easy-to-access place. It will be a constant work in progress. New questions will arise; their answers will be found and posted. Perhaps over time it can evolve into Frequently Asked Questions.

Among the things BHBs have mentioned again and again is the desire to help local victims of Florence. Elizabeth Beam, president of the Chapel Board and I have been in touch exploring different ways to accumulate donations and find the best way to disburse funds fairly. Should we have a unique Florence-related fund hosted by the Chapel, or do we provide the names of well-vetted local charities that serve different niches of a hurricane victims? All options will be posted on the web page.

Charity, it is said, begins at home. We have many non-profits on Bald Head Island: The Village Chapel, Bald Head Island Conservancy, Old Baldy and even the Public Service Auxiliary. My experience is that many give a set amount to charity each year. If I, for instance, choose this year to give a donation to charity “X”, I may end up giving less to charity “Y.” I ask that you keep in mind that revenue-generating activity at each of these non-profits has declined since the storm. They too need our help to continue to pay their staffs and perform the functions we have come to rely on.

I learned today that one of our own Public Safety Officers suffered severe damage to his family’s house in Hampstead. With a wife, a child and a dog, finding shelter to bring his family back together has been difficult. Perhaps supporting Officer David LaPlante is a way we can help
contribute to the mainland and island communities. What better way than to assist a member of our own community?

Other interesting ideas have been incubating during the storm. Methods of contacting each other in emergencies, making greater use of technology to avoid the frustration of posts hopping all around on Facebook, never to be found again. I can’t wait to explore them.

If I were PR professional I would have thought of ways to float more ideas, or understood better how to promote different island groups to garner more volunteers for day-to-day functions. So many have offered to volunteer to help clean up their neighbors’ yards, and that is unquestionably needed now. I encourage you to think about participating on a committee, each entity has them. The more ideas that are shared, the better everyone’s programs will be. Being a permanent resident doesn’t give us any special rights, other than bragging rights. There is no “us versus them” as the response to this storm has proven. We’re just here more often (and this, for many of us, is our only home.) We love welcoming you and weaving you into our tightly knit BHI family.

My Facebook days are coming to an end. I am looking forward to going back in my shell and getting back to the piles of half-complete projects that await me on BHI. It will be especially fun to catch up with you while riding bikes around BHI as we all wait for new golf carts to be ordered. And how many parties shall we plan??? We must still honor Mary Munroe. The Island employee celebration will be rescheduled. And we must find a way to memorialize this Hurricane Florence experience with a special island-wide party. We can start a new island tradition of thanksgiving and friendship – together!!!

Sleep is overcoming me as I try to write this. I can finally give in to its powerful urge. Like many of you, I now know what I am facing. I can deal with the known. Nightmares of what might lie ahead have been replaced with facts.

What a crazy shared memory we have endured!!!

Til tomorrow when home “suite” home (the back of our car) will be replaced with “home sweet home.” My own bed, My own pillow. Different clothes. I can’t wait!!! There’s no place like home, especially when you are lucky enough to live on Bald Head Island.