Neighbors In Blue

Coast Guard shipmates, friends and family join in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Matthew. From Left to Right: Alexander Coronado, BMCM Chris Wright, BM3 Catherine Gallagher, Aux. Billy Rutledge, FN Martin Bunn, Laura Bunn, FN Cory Owsley, MK3 Anthony Bryant, SN Forrest.

By Aux. James D. Charlet

It is likely that a lot of Hatteras residents went to bed Saturday night, Oct. 8, 2016, comforted by the prediction that Hurricane Matthew would persist on its northern trajectory and go out to sea. That all changed Sunday morning, however, as a wall of water from Hurricane Matthew’s storm surge rapidly engulfed much of Hatteras, devastating homes and businesses.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, residents of Hatteras quickly turned to their age-old tradition of neighbors helping neighbors following disasters. This small but tight-knit community, which includes members of U.S. Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet, quickly pitched in to start the rebuilding and the recovery process.

“I only had water inside once, which was in 1993 during Hurricane Emily, and it was only three inches,” said Laurie Parker the first person to receive help from the Coast Guard and whose house is nearly 100-years-old. “During Matthew, the water in my house was over 10-inches-deep.”

By Tuesday, nearly a dozen volunteers from the station were assisting homeowners in removing storm debris, which included damaged furniture, building materials and appliances from their homes. This volunteer work continued for nearly two weeks.

According to Master Chief Petty Officer Christopher Wright, officer-in-charge of Station Hatteras Inlet, his volunteer crews assisted approximately 50 homeowners in the towns of Hatteras and Frisco.

“This experience was really fulfilling,” said Wright. “That’s the reason I joined the Coast Guard: I want to help people.”

Wright agreed that it wasn’t until his crew had finished that he realized just how many houses they had been to.

“I never got the sense of fulfillment that I did with this experience,” said Fireman Martin Bunn, a crewmember from Station Hatteras Island.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Joe Habel said he found the community reaction to the Coast Guard assistance to be overwhelming. Many residents expressed their appreciation and a few even offered to pay for the crew’s services but were politely turned down.

BMCM Chris Wright, Rebecca Wright (1)

One house stood out in the minds of the young Coasties. Early Tuesday morning, one work crew went to the home of “Miss Cora,” a long-time Hatteras Village native. As the crews carried on the dirty work of overhauling the flood damage, she was in the kitchen baking them a pineapple cake to show her appreciation!

Helping people. It isn’t just typical of Hatteras Island but also of what the Coast Guard does every day.