Heed the warnings

Published 9:22 am Tuesday, April 26, 2011

To say the least, last week ranks among the all-time high on my list of performing unpleasant tasks.

As is sometimes too often the case in my profession, newspaper journalists have to cover tragic events. My personal list is way too long to print in this space. Fatal vehicle accidents, especially those involving children, and murders as well as the death and destruction left in the wake of a blow from Mother Nature are among the tragedies I’ve covered during my newspaper career.

It didn’t get any easier last week in the wake of the deadly tornado that tore through the heart of Bertie County, leaving a trail of tears along its broad path. The twister (actually two of them by this stage of the weather event) eventually crossed into southeastern Hertford County. There, no lives were lost in those quaint neighborhoods that dot the landscape on and near NC 45, but that nasty storm sank its ugly teeth into the hearts and souls of hard-working people, some who had spent a lifetime building their homestead from scratch.

Now, all that’s left in the path of the storm is rubble and plenty of heartache.

It’s emotionally heart-wrenching to point a camera towards a parcel of land, one now void of a home, and snap a photo of utter destruction. It’s not a pleasant task to walk up to a tornado survivor, stick a voice recorder in his or her face and ask them to relive those horrifying moments, mere minutes that felt much longer and where they perhaps thought their lives would surely end.

While I personally did not know the majority of those who lost everything, including their lives, in the blink of an eye on April 16, that doesn’t prevent me from feeling compassionate for the victims and survivors. They were loved by friends and family. They were members of our extended Roanoke-Chowan family.

I did personally know one of the victims. Roy Lafferty of Colerain was an acquaintance – our lives had crossed paths, first in Northampton County and later just seeing him out in the field working for the local telephone company. I know his son, Danny, and daughter-in-law, Kim.
My heart bleeds for their personal loss, especially under this particular set of circumstances. I lost my dad and mom, both to illness, over a 110-day stretch in 2004. I can’t imagine having a parent (or parents) healthy as a horse one day and gone the next. There no way to prepare….there’s no chance to say goodbye.

The pain of this weather-related tragedy will eventually subside. But we all need to never forget April 16, 2011 and the lesson it leaves behind. If the loss of life and property teaches us one thing from that dreadful day, it needs to be that when a meteorologist is giving ample warning of approaching severe storms, heed the advice and seek safe shelter.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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