While the world slept, Bertie flooded

Published 9:47 am Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A week has passed since North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory visited Bertie County to personally witness the destruction caused by flooding in the wake of 17 inches of rain over a three-day stretch.

While here in our little corner of the universe, McCrory spoke with local leaders and local farmers, vowing to do all he could to send assistance our way.

During his press conference held a week ago under the stoplight at the intersection of King Street and Granville Street in flood-ravaged downtown Windsor, McCrory made mention of the fact that he attempted to steer the attention of the mainstream media, who were covering civil unrest in Charlotte following an officer-involved shooting that resulted in death, to the plight of those suffering in Bertie County.

While in Windsor, McCrory even went as far as to inquire of Michael Sprayberry, Director of North Carolina Emergency Management, as to the amount of money spent by the state to deploy resources to Charlotte compared to the money spent at that time for flooding in Bertie. Sprayberry’s answer was $2 million for Charlotte; $250,000 for Bertie.

McCrory felt those numbers should be flipped.

“We spent a lot of money helping the City of Charlotte control 300 rioters while thousands were suffering here in Bertie County,” the Governor said in Windsor.

While the story of Bertie’s pain and suffering was easily assessable on the website of this newspaper as well as eastern NC television stations in Greenville and New Bern, media giant CNN apparently thumbed its nose at us. I base this assumption on an online story published Oct. 1 by John Railey of the Winston-Salem Journal

“On Sept. 23, as Gov. Pat McCrory was trying to tell the world just how bad the flooding in northeastern North Carolina was, CNN cut its powerful cameras away. Then its (CNN) talking heads groused that the flooding wasn’t as serious as the Charlotte police shooting and the rioting that followed,” Railey wrote.

Railey went on to write that McCrory told him that the Bertie flooding did not suit CNN’s “ratings game.”

“For the record, I believe the Charlotte situation and the flooding were equally important,” Railey wrote. “We need the big media spotlight on our state’s issues, including flooding. A large part of the downtown of Windsor, in Bertie County, was once again under water, the Cashie River having once again ravaged it. At least 65 people had to be evacuated, including residents of a nursing home.”

It’s refreshing to see a journalist from one of our state’s most respected newspapers (the Winston-Salem Journal) take a stand for northeastern North Carolina….an area often ignored by others across our state. To the majority of outsiders, we’re nothing more than a bump in the road on their way to the North Carolina beaches.

Railey is one of us. He said his family is rooted in eastern ‘Carolina, and that he covered the devastating effects of Hurricane Floyd’s flooding on the region in 1999.

“I was glad Sept. 23 as I watched CNN start to cover a press conference on the Charlotte riots in which McCrory began by talking about the flooding,” Railey wrote, adding that CNN’s worldwide coverage could be, “immensely helpful to flood victims by bringing in donations and maximum federal aid.”

Railey said the governor noted the lack of national media coverage of the Bertie flooding.

A few minutes later, CNN proved him right by cutting away from his press conference. Their anchors pontificated about Charlotte. CNN only returned to the press conference when McCrory began talking about Charlotte, then complained about him leading with the flooding.

“Good for the governor for trying to bring some attention to northeastern North Carolina. And boo to CNN for not having the heart to help,” Railey said in his article. “Yes, Charlotte needed the national glare for the fatal shooting of a black man of modest means by a black officer, and the riots that followed. But why couldn’t CNN give even just a few minutes to the flooding?”

Thanks, John Railey, as well as thanks to McCrory, for pointing out the obvious….just as the Governor noted last week in Windsor: “While the world slept, Bertie County citizens were crying out for help in the middle of the night and nobody was listening because all the focus was on Charlotte.”

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him 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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