Lumberton and much of Eastern North Carolina is still under water in the wake of Hurricane Florence. I95 is flooded. So are many state highways, county roads, and neighborhood streets. Many people are without power. Many have had to evacuate. Many have lost everything.
It’s so easy for us to be numbed by disasters, natural and man-made. There seem to be so many, and they usually are remote, in terms of both distance and way of life. Even the closest tend to be in the places we fly over or drive through, wondering at the schlocky stores and motels that dot our major through routes. We never really look behind the surface, and get to know the people there. Their tragedies only touch us for a moment if at all. Sometimes they bring out the terrible truth of Stalin’s brutal apothegm, “One death is a tragedy, a million is statistic.”
For many people, Lumberton is a place to ignore, for us to speed through or fly over. It was to me. Situated midway between Florida and the Northeast, Lumberton early became an overnight stopping point. A lot of the stores and motels have lined I95 for decades, many since the 1950s, often long past their sell-by dates.
But beyond the interstate strip, Lumberton is a remarkable place, with a uniquely diverse population. There’s a large Native American population, the largest in the East, and a nearby university (UNC-Pembroke) and a military base (Fort Bragg) are magnets for people from all over the United States and the world. People from all over decide to stay on, or return when they can. There’s a lovely historic district and lots of those tall Eastern North Carolina trees.
I’ve been blessed to leave the interstate and get to know some of the people in Lumberton, as described in my post on the Third Annual Beer Snob Pig Picking and Beer Snob event at the Kenney’s. You should read about it. It’s a wonderful event, started by a hyper-diverse group of friends who decided to cook a whole hog and drink craft beer. The pork and the beer are great, as are the multitude of side dishes people bring. But it’s the people that are the real attraction. The pig picking is now a big affair, with a crowd of people from all backgrounds and occupations and ages, white collar, blue collar, and no collar. They’re lovely people, people who I know will help each other. And now they and so many others have been hit hard by hurricane winds and record rains. Lumberton will rebound, but it will take a while, and even then some folks will never get over it. In the meantime, it will be individual people, not statistics who are suffering. Pray for Lumberton.
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