THE RAINWATER pooled on my front sidewalk Sunday morning, just as it does every time we get a heavy rain. Two miles away, it swallowed up entire cars, collapsed buildings, flooded businesses and took at least one life.
A friend had to escape through a window as the raging storm water overtook his SUV. I had to drive slowly when I ventured out of the house Sunday afternoon.
My water went out, which presents all sorts of problems that you never think of until it happens — but which is a minor inconvenience compared with what so many of my neighbors down the street, across the Midlands and throughout South Carolina are enduring. I wasn’t flooded out of my home, wasn’t trapped in surging water, didn’t have to be rescued by our amazing first responders or forced to seek shelter with friends or strangers. As so many were.
This is the story that has repeated across our state, as elevation and wind direction and even luck — did an earthen dam near your home or business breach, or remain intact? — determined the degree of damage. The storm that swamped South Carolina over the weekend was so massive that each of us knows someone who is suffering. The storm was so massive that all of us were touched in some way, even if just by the inconvenience of having to keep the kids home from schools that are closed, or the prospect of the state’s dialogue being overtaken by its aftermath.
Most of us were spared the life-changing toll a storm of this magnitude can take. Is taking.
For this, I offer up my prayers of thanks. For those not so fortunate, I offer up my prayers of intercession.
As should we all.
And we all should offer up our assistance. We should check on our neighbors. We should reach out to those in need — even if we offer them nothing more than a friendly ear and opened arms. If we have time, we should volunteer to help the United Way or the Red Cross or other service organizations that are trying to help people survive from one day to the next and then start putting their lives back together. Money probably wouldn’t hurt, if you want to send a check to the United Way or the Central Carolina Community Foundation. I’m sure Harvest Hope and the other food banks around the state would be happy to accept your monetary or food donations.
The worst may be over; it may not be. Flooding will continue as rivers crest and overflow their banks from the mountains to the coast. More victims may be discovered as the flood waters recede and as rescuers and neighbors are able to venture into homes that were flooded. We have not yet begun to count the damage to private and public property, or to our infrastructure. More dams may breach, more bridges may collapse, more roads may disintegrate as the rain continues, as the rivers crest, as the traffic rolls back over water-weakened asphalt.
Our local and state leaders will be tested — are being tested — by the storm. There will be time to assess their performance. There will be time to consider what, if anything, we could have done differently to make this less devastating: Would better maintained bridges and roads have survived the storm? In Columbia, the same question can be asked of a water system whose funding has been been diverted to frivolities. Would more conservative zoning have kept homes and businesses out of harm’s way? Do we have, and enforce, adequate dam-safety regulations? Or was this deluge just too overwhelming for even the best public policy to make a difference?
For now, we can be grateful to the first responders who put their own lives at risk to save so many others over the weekend. Who are still out there, still saving lives. We can be grateful for the good Samaritans who added their assistance, not because it was their job but because it was their calling. We can be grateful to the public officials, from Gov. Nikki Haley and Adjutant General Bob Livingston to sheriffs and police chiefs and mayors and council members and city managers, who offered calm but firm warnings, who put in place curfews and called on schools and businesses to close in order to, in Gov. Haley’s words, “give us the space that we need” to begin to put the state back together.
And we can remember to practice patience.
The recovery will not be quick. Roads and bridges will take weeks or months to repair. Some homes and businesses will take longer — if they can even be salvaged. People who have been uprooted will not find normalcy soon, and the displacement will disrupt their entire lives, exacting a tremendous emotional toll. Those of us who have been merely inconvenienced can quickly forget that we were fortunate, that the damage was tremendous, that the suffering continues and that there is so much work to be done, for individuals and for our communities.
Be kind. Be careful. Be helpful. And do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We are one family. Together, we will recover.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.