Freshman Calvin Baker has spent his first weeks at Knox with his mind heavily on his hometown of Swansboro, N.C. The coastal city was among those directly hit by the recent Hurricane Florence, and Baker described the impact as massive.
“My mom, when she went out to basically prepare for it, she said all the water was gone,” he said. “Every MRE was gone from the stores. Canned food was gone. It was like the apocalypse was about to happen.”
Shingles were blown off roofs, trees knocked down, overflowed bridges cut off access to nearby islands, and Baker was told his former workplace nearly collapsed. Baker now faces dealing with the damage to his home when he returns to Swansboro.
“We lost about half our shingles. All of our plants blew away… Our shed was fine I think, but besides that everything else blew away,” Baker said.
Baker prepared for the worst but was assured of the safety of his family who evacuated to South Carolina. After spending five days away, his family was initially unable to return to their house because of flooding, having to spend a day in their RV.
The time for Baker was marked by frightening phone calls, such as a dramatic one with a friend who hadn’t evacuated. As he was speaking with her and hearing the rattling wind and pelting rain in the background, the call suddenly cut out.
“It was a really scary moment, and all I could do was just sit there. I couldn’t help her,” he said.
Baker has now heard back from her and all his regular contacts confirming their safety. Baker’s family, meanwhile, has set to work on putting things back together.
“[My dad’s] already started on the house, which to me is kind of scary because I’m not there to help him. I’m usually there helping around the house… I’m not there, I’m here. I can’t do much here,” he said.
Baker’s initial wish was to return home, especially because his father is a US Marine, and is thus limited in how much time he can spend on the home.
“But I know my mom and my dad would rather want me here,” he said.
In dealing with this ongoing turmoil, Baker has found support through friends on campus and the staff of the men’s soccer team, of which he is a member.
“The head coach Brian and the assistant coach Lucas, they talked to me every day about it… It was just a bunch of spitting out my thoughts. So I always had somebody to talk to,” Baker said.
Baker will return to Swansboro at the start of winter break, at which point he expects to go into high gear not just helping around his house but other nearby people who were affected.
“I’m really close to everyone there and I helped around the houses… so when I get back I’m definitely going to keep helpingÉ But now it’s just gonna be on a bigger scale. And more hell,” he said.
Senior Tom Trudeau of Raleigh, N.C. was fortunate their home area was just outside of the flooded region, but the period leading up to Florence was still a stressful one.
“When it was coming, actually when it was still a category four and it was basically on a perfect track for my hometown, that’s when I was really shitting myself,” they said.
Trudeau has lived through storms before, but described Florence as particularly discomforting because they were here at Knox, watching from a distance.
“Every time there’s a hurricane coming, you get the news, we go out there as a family, board everything up… and it sucked to not be able to do that, to just sit here and be like reading the news nervously,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau’s family also owns a rental property on the Outer Banks barrier islands with an unfinished game room, which had to be prepared for the storm by raising the foosball table and TV to the ceiling by a pulley system. They described their concern for the people who lived on the islands as intense.
“When people think of the Atlantic Coast they think of like Myrtle Beach or Atlantic City, but a lot of it isn’t like that. These are our poor country folk who just happen to live at the beach,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau was relieved when Hurricane Florence turned south, allowing them to avoid being affected in any direct way. But this relief came with mixed feelings, knowing how many were still in the hurricane’s path.
“So for me personally it’s not as bad as it could have been, but also for all the people that it did turn directly towardsÉ I don’t know. There’s a weird kind of survivor’s remorse,” they said.
Trudeau’s greatest personal concern ended up being for their aunt and uncle, a high school teacher and a community college professor, who had just purchased a home in low lying Edenton, N.C. Trudeau was especially aghast when they found out the couple lacked flood insurance.
“I was like, ‘what are you doing’… I was worried about their dream kinda going down the toilet and all this money they just put into this house. But they seem to be okay,” Trudeau said.
To Trudeau’s knowledge, all their contacts in their home state are safe. They have been grateful for Facebook’s safety check feature for making it easier to keep up with their friends’ statuses without having to reach out to everyone individually.
Trudeau also has strong feelings about the situation from a political perspective, worried about the kind of hurricane relief that will come from the current administration and critical of its response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
“I’m pretty sure that the response of that administration towards Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was definitely twinged with racismÉ I’m kind of sickly hoping that he gets his act together for North Carolina,” they said.
Trudeau also feels people have not taken the threat of climate change and its effect on storms seriously enough. He fears that as storms increase in intensity, those who’ve lived through hurricanes in the past will not recognize the greater danger and will try to ride them out.
“They’re super under-prepared for stuff like this because the legislators are putting their heads in the sandÉ I’m worried but I’m also hopeful that this was a wake up call a little bit for the state,” he said.