Ground Zero: The Kindness of Strangers in Hurricane Matthew’s Aftermath
Rebecca Stanborough is a teacher and author (and brilliant conference reporter) whose home in St. Augustine, Florida was in the path of the storm. Becky evacuated to Georgia, and she and her family are safe. But her Facebook post last Friday described what awaited her when she got home. We’ve edited the post to protect the privacy of people she thanks by name, and the link for this story points to local news coverage, rather than our colleague’s own Facebook page.
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“Our political discourse is kind of disgusting at the moment, so I am going to turn away from the spectacle and talk about what has happened since Hurricane Matthew tore up this part of the world. Because the depth of human kindness is beyond anything I have ever experienced (except for that time a couple of strangers took me in and clothed me and fed me and sent me to college, which is kinda hard to top).
“On the day I came home to a house flooded with toxic sea-and-sewer water and a pecan tree on the roof, my excellent neighbors showed up in ones and twos and threes. Two of them, both of whom had hurricane experience, told me exactly what to bag and toss, and they stayed with me in those early hours, redirecting me when I stood staring at the sheer enormity of the task.
“Someone cleaned out my fridge, and then she went away and when she came back, she had found a place for me to live for two weeks.
“Neighbours I had never met took away sopping bags of clothes and linens and brought them back washed and neatly folded. People I barely knew brought me cold Gatorade. They were just driving through neighbourhoods handing out drinks to the helpers.
“My students showed up to help clean up the reeking mess. The Servicemaster team began the gutting process and talked me through the insurance stuff. My neighbour cut down the pecan and fallen cedar in a matter of hours. The parents of my students and my wonderful colleagues texted and called and sent gift cards. Someone brought a huge basket of gift cards and cleaning supplies and treats.
“A woman I never met before brought me a bag of shoes in my size. Someone else called all over the world to help find a longer-term abode for me and my kids. Our assistant principal showed up to check on us. Tonight, someone brought me an air conditioner and MacGyvered it into the window sill.
“And these acts of kindness and aid are happening all up and down the coast: food distribution, cleaning supplies, lists of available housing, networks of help for people much more devastated than I am—people whose homes were condemned outright or were swept away. Our school system checked every single student to see who needed what and set about getting needs met.
“So what I am saying is that while I grew up miles and miles from here, this week St. Augustine became my hometown. I am stunned by the tide of human kindness that followed Matthew. And I love you all so much.”