Writing Workshops Help Disaster Victims Overcome the Tragedy of Hurricane Floyd

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Release date: 
May 25, 2000
Release Number: 
HQ-00-079

As Harlan Gradin, from the North Carolina Humanities Council, sees it, eastern North Carolina communities recovering from Hurricane Floyd need "not only financial resources, but also emotional resources."

That's why the council - a non-profit foundation that works to bring state residents closer together through history and culture programs - is sponsoring writing workshops. The workshops encourage citizens to write about their Hurricane Floyd experiences as a way of processing and reviewing this devastating event, much like a therapeutic exercise.

"As you write about your experiences, it gives you an opportunity to bring order and coherence to chaos," said Gradin. "You have the opportunity to think reflectively and critically about your experiences and how these connect to the lives of other people in your community."

He added, "As you begin to sort through this, it is a way of healing."

So far, the council has sponsored two, three-hour workshops in Grifton (Pitt County) and two in Belvoir (Pitt County). Julie Fay, an Eastern Carolina University professor of writing, facilitated at the workshops.

The workshops don't just benefit those doing the writing, said Gradin.

"They are a two-edged sword," he said. "It's helpful in healing the writer. It also is helpful for readers because it gives them an intimate glimpse into the hearts of those who went through it that can't be conveyed through newscasts."

The council is now evaluating the Belvoir and Grifton workshops and considering some changes, including adding taped oral stories of people's experiences for those who have difficulty writing.

These workshops are but one example of the ongoing efforts by the federal, state, and local governments and volunteer agencies to help those affected by Hurricane Floyd recover.

FEMA's Carlos Mitchell, the federal coordinating officer for the area commended the Humanities Council workshops. "Emotional recovery is just as important as physical recovery," he said, "and we commend the North Carolina Humanities Council for this initiative."

Excerpts from workshop writings:

  • "...the ones I remember most were the people in lines...the endless lines that snaked everywhere...Come back tomorrow, do it again and again...a week spent trying to get food? How are we supposed to live like this...I hated those lines. I hated begging, I hated being told that I should get what was rightfully mine...I guess a lot of the anger I felt then is still in me. Maybe it rubbed off while I was standing in line waiting for food stamps, waiting for tetanus shots, waiting for toilet paper, waiting for my life to get back to normal. I can't wait anymore. I feel so anxious for everything now. NOW...I want to get back to myself now and I want to stop being angry NOW."

  • "For a while we were together-the flood victims. As more neighbors began to hear of the flood and supplies, they came to get some. Then they started coming back to offer help. Some people came and worked all day. There was a very cooperative spirit as men, women, and children worked together."

  • "When is the disaster over? Early on we tried to survive in our neighborhood...Now it's six months after the flood. Is the disaster over? No! No! No! Hands still need to be held-hugs still needed. Saying I'm sorry you're confused. I'm confused too."

  • "I always knew that people were good and the proved it during the flood."

  • "I couldn't believe that a disaster could happen in N.C. like the flood, which came and took everything that you worked so hard for. I'm thankful for our lives...Remember you can lose everything in a twinkling of an eye, but as long as you have your life and faith in God you can overcome anything."

  • ...
Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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