Florence affects us all

Union member Gina Williams tells her experience before, during and after Hurricane Florence

By: Gina Williams

By: Gina Williams

My name is Gina Williams and I live in Turkey, Sampson County, North Carolina. Turkey, one of those blink-of-an-eye towns that pepper our county, is less than 30-minutes drive from Garland, where I work at the Brooks Brothers shirt factory. My coworkers, and fellow union members, also live in other tiny towns around Garland.

But right now we are dealing with the 18 trillion gallons of rain Hurricane Florence dropped on us in seven infamous September days.

The storm made landfall in Wrightsville Beach on September 14, unleashing its fury unto the Carolinas, and claiming the lives of more than 40 people. In the misdt of the tragedy, I feel blessed. Our home saw minimum damage. It's livable. And our diverse, close-knit community in Turkey stayed safe. We even were able to help others in nearby towns by providing a dry, safe place and warm food.

My husband is the Chief at the local Fire Department. The building wasn't marked as an official shelter because of the shape of the doors but we were certain our community needed it. Before the storm, we gathered supplies—including water and canned food—and got ready to welcome neighbors looking for shelter.

During the hurricane, with constant tornado warnings just 30 minutes away from us, we used boats to rescue people trapped in cars on flooded roads.  We even helped some National Guardsmen. After each rescue, I felt better hearing from coworkers in other towns through social media. It also gave me peace of mind knowing that my union contract protects me for all these days we cannot do our regular work.

The worst ended by September 19, but we are now dealing with the aftermath. All that water --18 trillion gallons-- has flooded homes, took down the electric grid, and made many roads disappear. Florence has blocked off a lot of people from civilization.

The water is going from river to river, flooding everything in between. The dirt from these floods is taking roads with it. There are still thousands of families in shelters. But I have hope.

Our diverse community, Black, white and Latinx families, is what gives me hope that we will overcome. When we come together across racial divides we can keep our kids safe, we can meet the biggest challenges. And I'm certain that the SEIU family has our back because pulling together across racial differences is the only way to fight 18 trillion gallons of rain.

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