Editor's Note: Please join me in welcoming a new author to the Fresh Brewed blog. Nancy Vest is an active writer of letters to the editor and stays involved.
As my older daughter and I huddled together in the only hallway of our home near the St. Andrews community, we heard a low, rumbling train sound. Suddenly, the lights went out and we were in darkness. My daughter sobbed; I teared up, too, and prayed. The train sound soon faded, and was followed by a whistling wind. Then silence. The tornado had passed. An alert came over my cell phone, Tornado on the ground in St. Andrews subdivision with multiple houses damaged.
My phone rang. It was a friend who lives in Lemon Springs checking on me. The tornado had come close to her house, even pulling shingles off their tobacco barn-turned storage shed, but they were all okay. I told her we seemed to be okay and that I would call her back once I had looked around the house and yard. Our home and property were spared. Once my daughter pulled herself together, she left for an already planned trip to Arby’s to give a friend a ride home from work. I called over to Hunt Springs Baptist where they were having an Easter event with the youth. They were okay, but Pastor Wes Thomas said there were many homes lost. Another friend called to report Lowe’s had been hit. Her husband was there working, but he and everyone else made it out okay. At that point, I still didn’t know about Tractor Supply, Big Lots, Static Control, etc.
Still in shock, I positioned myself on my front porch, facing Lemon Springs Road. Being about a 1/10th of a mile from St. Andrews Church Road gave me the perfect vantage point for watching the parade of emergency vehicles that soon proceeded up and down Lemon Springs Road. Sheriff vehicles from Lee, Harnett, Moore, and Chatham counties, public works vehicles, ambulances, the Emergency Command Center, ATV’s carrying rescue workers, Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief van, search and rescue dogs, flatbed wreckers, backhoes, a cherry picker and more. Lemon Springs Road was soon closed for all but emergency traffic which made it a challenge for my husband and both daughters to make it back home.
The wind chime in our pink dogwood tree plinked in the breeze. It made me think of the movie, Twister. Hmm, I thought. They got it right. Soon generators roared to life, chain saws buzzed like dueling banjos, and rescuers shouted back and forth as they worked frantically to assist tornado victims and clear roads. My cell phone was busy with calls and text messages from my family, and friends checking on us. My daughter who had gone to Arby’s was having trouble convincing the checkpoint officer to let her down the road. Finally, she was able to find a way in; likewise for my husband and younger daughter. I breathed a sigh of relief once everyone was at home, safe. We managed to make dinner in our camper and we ate by flashlight. Even though we had no power at our house, a glow could be seen coming from St. Andrews, as people worked on by generator-powered lights. Exhausted, emotional, and mentally emptied, I took myself to bed and tried reading by flashlight. Somehow it wasn’t as much fun as when I was a kid. Our power came back on about 11 PM and I was soon asleep.
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Our community sprung into action immediately. Matt 6, Neighbors Helping Neighbors, Project Easter Basket, Red Cross, Hunt Springs Baptist, Poplar Springs Church Soup Kitchen, Kendale Acres Free Will Baptist, CUOC, The Boys and Girls Club, just to name a few. Facebook pages came alive. People of all ages gave time and resources, prepared and served food, and helped with the frenzy of restoring roadways and utilities, and securing ravaged homes and interrupted lives.
Businesses - like La Dolce Vita, All Animals Vet Hospital, Absolute Computers, Lee Builder Mart, Family Doc Counseling Center - jumped in as well, too, acting as drop-off points and providing food and other basic needs, and more. It seemed as if everyone in the county wanted to help in whatever way they could. Soon government officials were touring the stricken areas, local and statewide. Gov. Perdue released government money for use by the counties in need. FEMA came to town, too, offering federal money to victims, to help rebuild their lives.
It’s been nearly six weeks since that F3 tornado came and went. Hardee’s is serving food again. Lowes Home Improvement has placed the footers for the new building that is set to open in October. Their Sanford employees are working at other stores in the area until then. Static Control just announced it is nearly 95% back. St. Andrews Church Road is once again open to everyday traffic. The push to renew and rebuild is underway. Lessons have been learned, friendships have been made, and strength has been found.
One truth resonates with me when I stop and ponder the aftermath of this tornado. The response illustrates perfectly why the Founding Fathers’ model of government works. They envisioned local and state governments, citizens and businesses working together for the betterment of their own states and communities. They envisioned self-reliance, not reliance on an over-bearing, swollen central government trying to micro-manage everything from Washington. The Founding Fathers purposely wrote a constitution that limits federal oversight and leaves most things in the hands of the states, and therefore, the citizens. Each state knows what its needs are, and shouldn’t have to deal with the federal government middlemen who take money from the citizenry and then dole it back to the states as they see fit.
The federal government has over-reached into so many areas of our lives, areas that are state issues according to our Founding Fathers. For example, just think of how much more efficient and streamlined public education would be if it was run by the states, as dictated in the constitution. County and state governments, citizens, and business owners would decide what is needed to improve the education of the children. Communities could come together, identify the needs, and then fulfill them, just as we did in response to the tornado. Education tax dollars could stay in the state, with no federal mandates or hoops to jump through. Making this change alone, returning the responsibility of public education to the states and counties, would allow for new ideas to be tried and working programs to be kept. Fifty opportunities for innovation, instead of the constraints of the federal government as it strives toward squeezing each state into the same mold. Stop and imagine that for a moment.
Smaller central government works. The Founding Fathers knew it, and we have seen it in action again and again. The coordinated, effective response to the tornado is just the most recent example. We, as a people, must continue to push back on the federal government, thwarting their efforts to gain more control of our daily lives, and hopefully, taking some of their current control away from them. Remembering the tornado stirs so many images for each person. Let one of your images be the knowledge that we responded with gusto, spirit and strength, and with little assistance from the federal government. We don’t need them as much as they want us to think we do.
Nancy Heiser Vest