Imagine working your whole life to make something of yourself. Not busy work, but hard work, to make a modest living. Buying or building a house from the ground up, constructing a family, and before you know it, everything is gone. That was the ominous reality for many West Virginian's this past week as severe flooding destroyed much of 44 out of the 55 counties in the Mountain State.
Let me bring everyone up to speed: As severe thunderstorms barged into the state Wednesday night into Thursday morning, people across the state recorded rainfall of six to 10 inches accumulating in a 24-hour period. With the hilly geographic structure of the state, the water ran into streams, creeks, and rivers, leading to the third most destructive flooding WV has ever experienced. The current death toll stands at 24, with an abundance of people still missing, as they were swept away in the floodwaters, trapped in their cars, and stranded in their inaccessible houses. With pictures being released to show the magnitude of the devastation, and faces being put to the names of those who fell victim to the disaster, it is hard, as a West Virginian, to sit back and watch as your home and your people are pulled apart. They say that blood is thicker than water, and I have never known it to be truer (and literal, in this sense), than here in WV.
I like to think that West Virginians really are a special kind of people, despite all of the negative stereotypes that surround us. Abounding hospitality, a sense of camaraderie, and a duty to serve are qualities you'll find in any West Virginian on any given day. Throw in a natural disaster? We're a force to be reckoned with. Hours after Mother Nature had made her mark, people were organizing collection sights for supplies needed for clean up, volunteer search and rescue teams were out and about looking for missing persons swept away in the flooding, and the rest of us were looking for ways to help in whatever form they presented themselves. There have been reports of individuals anchoring themselves to cars and wading into rushing waters to help search for missing people and help access those in need. Relentless and unfaltering, Mountaineers will work to resolve this mess until everything is back to normal. It may not be today, or in a week, but we will get there.
We take pride in the beauty of our state.The rolling hills, the beauty found in the abundance of nature, the quaint feeling of euphoria in the singing of 'Country Roads.' But it's not just the physical, tangible beauty we Mountaineers take pride in. We also take pride in the people who make this state the way that it is- the literal heart and soul of this great state, the embodiment of "Mountaineers are always free." JFK said it best when he said, "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do," and yet again the big-hearted people of WV have proven him to be correct. So let us look at this for what it is: a storm. Show compassion for your family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers, as no individual warrants nature's physical nightmare. At the end of the day, location, relation, and heritage don't matter--we matter. West Virginia matters.
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