When the world around you washes away in an instant, ecstasy is replaced with despair. West Virginia, this beloved state with twin nicknames “Almost Heaven” and “Wild and Wonderful” had an unwelcome visitor last Thursday. A summer storm parked over these mountains and rivers and the rains did not stop. Twenty-three lives were lost. Thousands of homes were destroyed, leaving their occupants with nothing. Small towns were ripped apart by angry waves of filthy water. My family was inconvenienced only by some travel delays. Many weren’t so lucky.
As I have done each of the last seven summers, on Sunday, I packed my daughter and two weeks worth of camp gear into the car and headed for Camp Twin Creeks. A three hour drive from Charleston, this slice of paradise is less than an hour from the world-renowned resort, The Greenbrier, in White Sulphur Springs. In the past, when we cruise through this resort town, it’s all hands on deck in preparation for the annual Greenbrier Classic, a PGA golf tournament that draws crowds of celebrities and thousands of spectators from all corners of the world. This time, the sparkle had been stolen and they were in the thick of their third day of digging out. Instead of preparing for a star-studded golf event (which has been cancelled), the resort is opening its doors to victims of this disaster. Heart wrenching becomes heart warming.
Over the next few days, I will chronicle some of the images of this disaster and recovery. Watching all around as West Virginians band together to clean up and rebuild, a quote from John F. Kennedy reminds us all what this state is really about. “The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do.”
I am a proud contributor to my local newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, that circulates statewide. Their coverage of the storm and the aftermath is remarkable and the flood stories are archived here.