The sounds of hammering nails, screeching table saws, and buzzing generators drown the collective voices of contractors signaling work commands. Big machines ride down our street, taking up a permanent residence at our home since the tornado. Diggers, earth movers, concrete makers, and tons of work trucks with company seals emblazoned on side panels park along our driveways. At our anniversary date (September 1st), homes in our neighborhood are in various stages of a rebuild. Our neighborhood of twenty-six single family homes is still a work in progress. Red-tagged warnings from the housing department signal structures are unsafe and more than half of my neighbors have sought refuge in rental properties after fleeing for safety in the wake of Ida’s wrath. This past year, we had a new backdrop for holiday and birthday parties, wedding anniversaries, and even a high school graduation since our home address has changed.
Surprisingly, a year after the tornado, Mullica Hill is rebuilding and healing. Each sub-contractor offers their specialized expertise to help us return home. It’s a bumpy road to your home site as a traveling visitor, but friendly smiles and laughter can warm your heart amid the summer heat and long work days of the construction site.
Our community was shaken by this storm. Homes were crushed and deemed uninhabitable by insurance adjusters and housing inspectors, and yet we are grateful to have survived. Although we may appear healthy and well-adjusted, some scars remain hidden. Anxiety, worry, and fear resurface when clouds gather and skies darken. We search the sky for ominous signs of gray funneled clouds and reassure one another that our storm is an isolated event, never again to happen to our community in our lifetime. Sadness and loss filled our neighborhood as our cherished belongings were hauled away in oblong dumpsters. We hide these psychological scars behind a facade of smiles and sarcastic quips convincing loved ones that we are ok. Denial and ignorance create barriers to our well-being. The dark cloudy skies of uncertainty still loom overhead. Some have sought counseling and psychological therapy to clear a path for mental health recovery.
Although my family is displaced, I’m drawn to our friends that rescued us. Relationships are permanent and able to survive devastating natural disasters. Surrounded by love and friendship, healing takes shape in our relationships. We have been anchored by the love of our neighbors. They accompany us on our journey home and no storm can blow away this resolve.
Was there ever really a decision to sell our home and leave this community? Maybe I’m a bit too optimistic, but if you allow others to show their best, they will often exceed your expectations. Our neighbors stop us in grocery stores for family updates, township officials expedite building inspections, and local businesses provide financial relief through donations and fundraisers. A year later, I still ‘Believe in Miracles’.
My family is blessed to live in a community that cares. From rescue to rebuild, our town has rallied behind the mantra of ‘Harrison Strong’. The strength of our town lies in our sense of community. Through the fellowship of our friends and neighbors, we can heal and experience everyday miracles. Let’s forever celebrate the first day of September as a day of gratitude for small towns. Never forget the love and goodwill that we receive from our neighbors because their gestures of concern provide the essential fabric of community and are more powerful than any storm.
The Moraca Family of Mullica Hill