By: Lara Winburn
Columbia was not supposed to be my home. I grew up in the Upstate, went to Clemson, married a fellow Tiger and don’t even look particularly good in garnet. But here I am 11 years later.
Over the weekend, the rains came down and the floods came up. The bridge closest to our house simply disappeared. Trees around us fell to the ground, the soil so wet that they just tipped over, roots and all. Friends who I hold dear and have collected here in this town suffered devastating loss. They swam away from their homes even though they were never really waterfront before. Friends I don’t know well (more the wave-to-at-Publix variety) have left their homes barely saved by boats. The stories of devastation are too much to bear sometimes, but there is another story too.
In the days since, all I have seen has been warm and loving neighborly assistance. We are new to our neighborhood (hence my absence from the blog), but Sunday night as we all feared evacuation and the creak of falling trees, we gathered in one kitchen. I watched as a full meal for a dozen neighbors suddenly, out of thin air, appeared. Straight loaves and fishes. Once it seemed the threat had passed for us, I gathered in my cow’s neighborhood, one of the worst hit in floodmaggeden.
There, I have witnessed men ripping their neighbors’ houses apart with their bare hands. My husband and his friends have emptied houses, all worldly possessions covered in something that can only be described as insulation/drywall mud (because the ceilings gave way and the insulation ended up on the floor). We have done loads of laundry in an effort to preserve everything from winter coats to smocked dresses that still had a chance against that sludge. We have spent hours delivering lunch, dinner, cold drinks, and the occasional beer to groups of helpers- their sole purpose to serve the need…whatever that need may be. Donations poured in. We mentioned we were making sandwiches or hot dogs or lasagna to serve to those whose stove was now sitting on the side of the road, and the deliveries rolled in. “I can bring salad, I can bring bread, I can watch all 11 kids,” were the words that rung out. As we walked these streets, armed with nothing more to offer than a cold drink or a sandwich, we were called “a blessing.” We encountered gracious families who had lost everything and were watching years’ worth of photographs dry on their lawn. With a smile and a thank you, those same people would point to other homes and ask, “Would you make sure they got some?” just as concerned for their neighbors as themselves.
I tell you all of this to say, we were not alone. This was the norm. This is what the masses were doing to serve their neighbors and town – the people of Columbia and the people of South Carolina together.
I know this is not an unusual tale. We have all seen it on Facebook and even the nightly news. But this is not a story that gets old. Community should be celebrated again and again.
And with all of this, I know these are my people, my neighbors. This is my tribe. This is my town. And this is my home.