Editors Note: Jay Joslin is a Jubilee! Minister and a volunteer Chaplain/Clinician for Transylvania County EMS & WNC’s Crisis Intervention Peer Alliance Team.
There are some great pull-offs along the road following the winding Rocky Broad River from Henderson into Rutherford County, perfect for river gazing and rock hopping. It’s enchanting, to amble among the boulders and trees, time itself slips into the river. Recently I was thumbing the smooth stones at such a nook when I realized that during Hurricane Florence where I was sitting, my head would be under a deluge of water. I dropped the stone.
Florence ravaged the Coast. In the aftermath, the convoys came in, everything that it takes to raise a formerly thriving coastal community to one level above utter chaos. For a week, the hardest hit counties of New Hanover and Pender were in the dark. No electricity, no information. The medical providers and first responders arduously worked in conditions that didn’t make the headlines, going several nights without sleep, at times pushing through news of devastation because there was no time to lay down and cry. I know this because they told me, because I was sent in to listen.
The State’s deployment attached us to New Hanover county’s regional medical system. For safety, all hospital staff were under lockdown until order was restored- a week. Many knew little of their families on the outside. Until the all clear came, no one could leave the battered but held-steady hospital. Some staff boated in to replace their colleagues. Surrounding us, piles of broken trees lay in disorderly heaps. Innards of homes – entire lives – lined whiplashed streets, like remnants of some grotesque party. Some piles have makeshift memorials on them, and one of these I would come to know intimately. One of the first fatalities was a beloved nurse and her child, touching seemingly everyone.
Many lost everything but three words became most common: lucky, thankful, blessed. Even those in mourning felt a new family coming together. Blessed. Sit with that. Most haunting, though, are the words of a nurse named Colby on my last day there. Colby loves the ocean, it’s her happy place. She said she couldn’t bring herself to go anymore. She’s angry at the ocean. Although she knows the ocean is just an actor in a play- no. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the ocean either. Perhaps it was out of respect to Colby. Oh, Holy Mother Ocean.
When I got home, for some reason, I didn’t have much water pressure in my kitchen. There was cat puke on the floor. I was flustered for a second – then I remembered. I’m certain I’ll always remember. People ask how the trip was. I understand this question…I wasn’t there to witness, yet you can’t help but be recalibrated by what you see. I say “Recalibrating,” and leave it at that. A river isn’t just a river anymore. The rush of water, as ancient and as new as ever.