October 8, 2016 was the day my life, my children’s lives and my community’s lives would change forever when Mother Nature had decided to pay the citizens of Robeson County a visit. At the time, I thought of it as a devastation to my community. Today after many sleepless nights, tears, and hugs, I view it as a warning, journey and a testament. The Hurricane itself caused a massive amount of monetary damages and psychological losses in my neighborhood. About five days after Martial Law was lifted, and we were able to return to what was left of our homes, I can speak for many when I tell you that, it was as if we were the characters in a movie, sobbing and bending over in such hopeless despair. Children were trying to hold up their parents and keep them from falling to the ground as they watched their furniture float inside what was once the gathering place after Sunday dinner – commonly known as our dens. One day water was our friend, as we appreciated it to drink, bathe, and water our gardens and the next day, it was our enemy, to loathe it’s very sewage and infectious existence. Hurricane Matthew and the flooding is actually a backstory in the movie, for now I know that this Hurricane and its devastating remnants, are the end result of actions taken by our community. A local government took a blind eye to proper preparation for such an event and a community moved so fast in society that it forgot to take care of the local earth. In return, the earth rendered a result that will bring people together to understand their relationship to ecology and their relationship with a Higher Power (if you are so a believer of any sort of Higher Powers).
And so the test of faith begins…..
The storm is technically over and we are walking in what we hope is a preparation stage for another, it is my understanding that aside from our losses, many messages are trying to be communicated. Are we taking care of the earth and not abusing it? Are we being fair to the environment? In the middle of the storm, can we prevent geographical flooding? And finally upon reflection, is our faith maximized by our courage?
If this were a grade, and I were the grader, I’d give this whole event an “F”! We all failed in some way. I totally underestimated the storm and its dangers. Neither was I aware that on a local and global level, my contribution to climate change and the environment really does matter, for every neglectful act warrants me a climate refugee! I thought my faith was strong, but I was tested. You do not know what you will do until you are actually in it. Every storm and disaster is unique to the individual and local community. I have not quite understood all the phases of disaster and crisis in relation to who should respond and when and for how long. All I know is that I have learned that equity and equitable are NOT the same things. Lastly, what I thought was the ultimate measure of strength, rescuing individuals most vulnerable to the rapidly moving water, is actually not the fullest of courage. The fullest of courage is the ability to self reflect, to ask the hard questions, and make a plan to prevent this from happening again. My biggest challenge is being able to endure, WHILE trusting the process. WHAT PROCESS? Government, and communities and even mother nature have phases to disaster:
Incident, Response, Relief and Recovery and Incident again (did I say incident again, yes I did, we are predicted to flood again in 1-5 years) It is within these phases, your emotions are on a roller coaster, you become unsure of your surroundings, resources and again it’s almost as if it’s a scene out of a movie where there is dreary, hopelessness, powerless and literally we too are in what some scholars call a “teba” or “box” inside of geographical barriers; a dike system, and a possible levee breach. A low lying, economically vulnerable community is barricaded inside of two systems that are no longer deemed a protective measure to prevent flooding. How can you be so courageous with two factual constants? You remain courageous by staying on a preventive course, staying on task for the greater good. As a mother of four, my children look to me for guidance, support, assistance and protection. I have to show them how to prepare by being a collector of knowledge and the applicator of it. The flood left me penniless, and homeless. Courage is building upward and stronger anyway and recognizing that Mother Nature holds us up the same way, if we don’t take care of her, she cannot take care of us.
Though the water has abated, the work to rebuild cannot be. Being unsure from day to day where your food or shelter will come from, is the deal breaker or I should say I thought it was. At one point I had not eaten a full meal in 4 days, just eating rations from what the FEMA search and rescue teams gave me, yet the work has just begun, the doors of the ark are now open and now more women have to do more of what they have always done: figure it out!
We must make the mass effort to educate the community about climate changes and how we are effected and affected by it. We must provide them with resources that promote dignity, and dependence, and assurance that just like there was a covenant after the flood, The universe will lend to us all that we need to rebuild stronger, together. I accept my plight in this catastrophe, as women have always knows to be the sacrifice zone for “a thing” to become and become greater! Just as a covenant is formed between the Universe and the Creator and mankind, I also look to unite women and assure them, that preparation and endurance is our true act of courage and that courage will be the activator of our faith, for this is the test of faith of a woman on the ark!
Adrienne Kennedy is a Hurricane Matthew Victim/Survivor from the Hurricane of October 2016 and still living in a hotel because of the displacement. She is a single mother of 3 boys and guardian of a cousin who has autism. She is also the vice-chair of the Robeson County Long Term Recovery Committee, and the director of the newly formed Seeds of H.O.P.E CDC of Robeson County. Adrienne serves as the voice for recovery and advocate for each family that were affected by catastrophic events of the Hurricane…