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Allen Johnson: The lucky ones who escaped disaster should shut up and be thankful

Allen Johnson: The lucky ones who escaped disaster should shut up and be thankful


My dear wife, bless her heart, prepared for Florence as if it were the Zombie Apocalypse.

Nonperishable foods. Candles. Flashlights. Batteries. Charcoal for the grill. Coolers. Bags of ice. Gassed-up vehicles

Check and double-check.

I playfully pooh-poohed all the somber devotion she invested in every precaution as the TV weather people were confidently predicting that Florence would come this way. Unless she turned in another direction.

And when it was all over all we had gotten was a lot a rain, some wind, some fallen limbs, a few ill-timed interruptions of satellite TV broadcasts, and on Sunday, about a five-second power outage.

But in retrospect, I appreciate every detail my spouse covered.

We were lucky. No, we were blessed.

Mainly we stayed in where it was warm and dry.

And we hunkered down for the worst, which never came.

At least not for us.

Even before the storm touched us, some people already were ridiculing local colleges and universities for canceling classes late last week.

N.C. A&T, where I teach part time, canceled classes as of noon on Wednesday.

A grand total of three students showed for my 8 a.m. class that day.

“It’s not even raining,” I heard someone say.

A&T and UNCG kept classes closed through Monday, even as sunny skies finally returned.

But the reasoning was sound: students needed time to return on paths that may have involved major detours.

As for last week’s cancellations, laugh if you want, but the video footage of a school bus in Charlotte plowing uneasily through flood waters was unsettling.

A big part of the problem with Florence was not only its size, but its deliberate and uncertain path.

At some stages it crept as slowly as you or I could walk.

Who knew where it would go?

Better to expect a disaster that never arrives than to be caught by surprise when it does.

And it did for some people.

As of this writing, 26 people in North Carolina had lost their lives during the storm.

Among the casualties was a 1-year-old toddler who was swept away in flood waters.

His mother, Dazia Lee of Wadesboro, had ignored barricades placed by the Highway Patrol and driven into a dangerous area after seeing other cars pass her in both directions.

“I was about to detour, but I stopped and I saw cars coming in and out, so I thought (it was OK),” Lee told The Charlotte Observer.

The car was shoved off a bridge by the onrushing water into a swollen creek and tossed into a thicket of trees, reported the Observer, where it lodged like a toy tossed into a shrub, with its nose pointing down.

As water filled the car, Lee managed to free herself. With her toddler, Kaiden Lee Welch, in her embrace, Lee, who cannot swim, struggled to make it to safety.

But the currents overcame her, she said. “I was holding his hand, trying to hold him, trying to pull him up,” Lee told Fox Charlotte through her tears. “And it got to the point I couldn’t hold on anymore — and he let go.”

Two other children died when massive trees fell into their houses.

In one of the cases, a mother and child in Wlimington were killed by the tree.

And some of you are complaining that this was much ado about nothing.

You should thankful. And you should be helping someone.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Allen Johnson at or (336) 373-7010.

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