I Remember Hugo: Twenty Years Later

Twenty years ago tonight, Hurricane Hugo came ashore in coastal South Carolina and then moved inland.

At the time I was a member of the SC state senate. The district I represented bore the brunt of Hugo. It was a long but relatively narrow district along the coast, including McClellanville, Awendaw, Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island, Mt. Pleasant, Folly Beach, James Island, Johns Island, Seabrook Island, Kiawah Island and surrounding areas.

As much as I like to write, I just can’t think of the words to adequately describe how ravaged the area was, how extensive the damage was. It was just beyond comprehension.  In South Carolina, 13 lives were lost.

Where there used to be a home, there was a single chimney or perhaps just the remnants of a bathroom. Another house was literally split in two. There were mattresses in what used to be front yards. Thousands and thousands of trees were upended. Trees made holes in rooftops – where rooftops remained. The only bridge leading to Sullivan’s Island and on to the Isle of Palms was damaged and could not be used. People could not return to their homes, or even visit to find out if their homes remained. Water flooded many homes that actually remained standing.

I could go on and on and on about the devastation, because it certainly went on and on; it was widespread and far-reaching. Instead, I want to share three particular remembrances.

Within days, I went up in a Black Hawk helicopter with Billy Graham, Gov. Carroll Campbell and Rep. Harry Hallman. We looked at the destruction from the air. What a view that was! Billy Graham, who certainly has traveled throughout the world, said it was the most extensive destruction he had ever viewed.

A second vivid memory is the spirit of community that came out of this terrible event. People helped each other. People worked together. There was a charitable, giving, caring, helping spirit among all. For weeks many of us didn’t have electricity and water. We were all dirty together. Neighbors shared food, chain saws, the much-treasured ice and water. It was a heart-warming experience.  At our home, since we had a large outdoor grill, families gathered nightly for food.  People brought food from freezers that were no longer working and we all cooked and ate together.  And churches that could be used were used.  People returned to worship services in tremendous numbers.

The third memory is of a sight in the small fishing village of McClellanville. In the midst of piles and piles of rubble that used to be homes, someone had planted a large American flag. It represented the epitome of the American spirit. It said, “We are going to be okay.”

It took many, many months, even years, but, yes, we eventually were okay. People joined hands and made it through those times which, at first, seemed overwhelming and almost insurmountable.

Flickr photos by scmikeburton, band4atl, japee and michelinecallicot.


Syd said...

It was a terrible time. I'm glad that this year has been kind.

kayerj said...

what an awful thing to endure.

Sandee said...

I can't imagine storms like this. Earthquakes yes, but these kind of storms no. What a heartwarming post of a community pulling together.

Have a terrific day. :)

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Wow! These photos spoke volumes.

Blessings & aloha!

(also wanted to let you know that I have a BLOG HUg (award) for you at my place...I think that you are award-free, no problem...just wanted to let you now that I was thinking of ya!)

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