Things you learn in storm’s aftermath about heroes

Published 1:41 pm Monday, October 8, 2018

It was 14 days since Hurricane Florence made landfall in the Wilmington area that I finally got a chance to check on friends and personal property damage. Some of them went without power for the better part of a week, but just like the skies after the storm, the light has returned, the roadways have re-opened, and for the survivors there will be many bittersweet reunions.

I’m happy to say my friends are okay, but the property is not. Putting it in the grand scheme of things, property and some things therein are material items that can be replaced. People cannot. I don’t say that to mock the many farmers and small businesspeople affected whose losses from the storm are paramount, but in the end we are strong. We will rebuild, we will recover. Really, it’s hard to think about it any other way.

But this isn’t about me. The greatest thing I’m grateful for are the many acts of kindness and from whence many of those acts came. You’ll be hearing and reading about the first responders and emergency personnel from our area who quickly, gladly, and efficiently stepped up to help, but you might not hear about some of the other people. Most of them are “little heroes”; others may surprise you.

My first hand-clap – and I’m going to keep on clapping until my palms and digits are sore – will go to “Y’all Eat Yet”. The Windsor-based mobile food truck and catering business that teamed up with Colony Tire and fed 800 people in the greater New Bern area last weekend. Then they topped that by teaming with NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski in bringing in supplies and feeding as many first responders as they could last Thursday. These folks suffered too. But they left it all – family, homes, loved ones – to perform a service and a duty unmatched and unwavering so many others could be safe.

Two Sundays ago, when Keselowski was pushing his Penske Ford as hard as he could around the little oval at Richmond to a 9th-place Monster Energy Cup finish, his wife – the former Paige White (a graduate of Lawrence Academy, I might add) – was checking on folks in eastern North Carolina. None of her immediate family in the Washington County area were affected, but she was traveling around the region offering aid and assistance wherever she could.

Then, coming back from Richmond, Brad, and his Brad Keselowski Foundation, partnered up with Ryan and Krissie Newman and their Rescue Ranch, an 87-acre animal rehabilitation facility they run in the Charlotte area. While Brad and Paige were helping those of the two-legged kind, Ryan and Krissie – who is certified in animal rescue through Code 3, by the way – were helping those of the four-legged variety, collecting items (animal food, crates, towels) and monetary donations to bring to the command center in Burgaw down in Pender County.

“We’ve seen a lot [of animals] on back porches, a lot on the second story inside the house where the owners have given us permission to go into the house and retrieve the animals,” Krissie Newman told

Maybe the involvement of his fellow drivers got Dale Earnhardt Jr. involved. Junior, who competed in the Xfinity Series race at Richmond on Sept. 21, had a “Team Rubicon” sticker on his car, for the international non-governmental organization that focuses on relief efforts. Junior said his foundation had planned on working with the group in the future, but decided to speed up their efforts because of the storm.

That makes me think a whole lot of dogs and cats – not to mention first-responders – are going to be watching or listening to Junior on the Cup broadcasts. I figure they’ll also be pulling for both the #2 Penske car and the #31 Richard Childress car these next few remaining racing Sundays.

Hurricane Florence will be with us in eastern North Carolina for a long, long time; whether you’re here in the Roanoke-Chowan, or in the Southeast. From what I’ve witnessed, when all is said and done, I have a feeling the uncommon and unexpected kindness of folks, famous or not, is going to win out. It has to.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.