West Virginians share a unique bond with each other that stays with us no matter where we go. It is the kind of bond that allows us to strike up a 30-minute conversation with a complete stranger simply because they are sporting a “flying WV” logo on their shirt. It is this special, familial bond that keeps us coming back home to those country roads.
So when one West Virginian hurts, we all hurt. On June 23rd, a flash flood devastated the Mountain State. The flood destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, took the lives of at least 26 people, and left an entire state in shock and disbelief. Unimaginable damage still exists throughout most of the state, and the recovery will be a long and painful one.
But from the tragedy and destruction has emerged an incredible force of community that merits considerable attention.
Almost immediately, donations came pouring in from all parts of the country - from West Virginia transplants and fellow Americans alike. Places like St. James Episcopal Church in Greenbrier County - one of the counties that suffered the most - has been a major hub for relief efforts through coordinating donations and volunteers to help with clean-up. Jim Justice, owner of the Greenbrier Resort, opened the doors of the famous hotel up to displaced flood victims. Famous West Virginians like Brad Paisley and Jennifer Garner are using their powerful public personas to bring attention and funds to the relief efforts. Most importantly, neighbors far and wide reached out to West Virginians in need and have donated countless hours, manpower, and energy to helping victims recover.
West Virginia seldom makes the national headlines, and is often marginalized by those unfamiliar to it. But West Virginians stick together. In the face of great despair, West Virginians have shown that the special bond of our community runs deep, is infectious, and stays with us wherever we may go. In a time and place where tragedy can strike every minute from any angle, West Virginia is the leading example of how to fight back.