Getting a second wind after Florence

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, October 3, 2018

StarNews of Wilmington

A friend recently asked if the response to Florence had been adequate. We said yes, at least in the immediate aftermath. And that response is continuing, as thousands of people still are in crisis. But we added that, in our experience, the toughest challenges can come when the storm is out of the headlines and life is starting to feel normal again for many.

That’s why we need a strong, sustained second wind, not only in our actual recovery work, but in ensuring we don’t let Florence’s ongoing impact slip too far from our minds — or from the priorities of our elected leaders.

Tales of dramatic rescues and strangers helping strangers are important and need to be celebrated. Filling out FEMA paperwork and trying to get back into a flooded home — or find a new one altogether — doesn’t make for such compelling stories, but that part of responding to the storm is just as important.

We also know from experience that hurricanes and flooding take an especially heavy toll on people who already are vulnerable — the poor, elderly, disabled and those with chronic health problems come to mind. Wind and water don’t discriminate, but the circumstances people and communities were in before the storm does.

As we try to move forward, it will be easy for some of those vulnerable people and places to slip through the cracks. It’s impossible for a disaster-recovery effort to meet every need, but we should try our best to reach out to those who have less means or ability to help themselves. Whether or not we do so will say a lot about the character of our cities, towns and state.

As Florence was making a beeline for Cape Fear, we used this space to urge a renewed sense of unity, patience and goodwill. Since then, we’ve seen all three in abundance. But we noted, too, that those qualities seem to come naturally in a crisis. As we begin recovery, all three will be just as essential but likely harder to muster and maintain.

So let’s take a breath, get that needed (if unfortunately named) second wind, and get back to work. Breathe deeply and, if you can, find a way to help. There is much to be done, and will be for a long time.