|By David Lauderdale, The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
We dodged the expense, aggravation, loss and even death that Hugo delivered a few miles up the coast.
The newspaper staff hunkered down in
As soon as the sun rose, we knew we could return home. We slowly began to realize the magnitude of what happened to our neighbors when photographs and television footage started coming out of
Boats were stacked like toys in marshes and streets. A roof would be peeled from one house, while no sign remained of the house next door.
By that afternoon, we heard that Hugo had reached into the so-called safety of the northern reaches of the state, plowing over trees and knocking out power, disabling our sister paper in
But when I look back on it, the story is not what happens during a Category 4 hurricane, but how people react to it.
Hammett learned the power of the
As an adult,
The young pastor tried to get a lift to the island to see what had happened. The fire chief was taking a small boat over and he had a lawyer aboard. He said there was no room for Hammett.
"I said, 'Wait a minute, you'll take the lawyer and leave the preacher behind?" Hammett recalls asking in jest.
"He said, 'If you'd done your job last night, we wouldn't need a lawyer.' "
It was the beginning of a long, muddy slog back to normal.
What happened at the Sunrise church could be multiplied times thousands and still not explain the powerful reaction to Hugo.
Flounder were flapping in what was left of the parking lot when Hammett got his first look. The roof was gone. Windows were blown out. Everything was out of place. The communion silver washed away, but was returned.
Hammett found the pulpit Bible on the floor, opened to a page in Jeremiah. He lit on chapter 33, verse 11, which promises that the sounds of joy and gladness would return to a desolate land.
As the initial inconveniences turned into a grind, the church met first in
Some in the church lost their homes and jobs. They were buoyed by strangers who would pull up to the house and help scoop out mud. "You didn't even know who they are," Hammett said.
Sunday school kids in
"We were affluent Presbyterians who found ourselves in line like the pauper," recalls Hammett, now a mental health counselor in
"Of course, the storm was tragic, but it is a very healthy experience to be on the other side of need. It was a life-changer for a lot of people. They have their own resources, know how to manage their lives, and then all of a sudden it all changes, like a heart attack.
"We found grace in being humbled and being in need."
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