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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Florence Dillahunt, May 31, 2001. Interview K-0580. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Community responses to the flood

Dillahunt describes the reaction of the people of Grifton, North Carolina, in the wake of the flood. Dillahunt explains that this flood was the worst that the people of Grifton had experienced, and as a result, she believes that people pulled together to help one another during the crisis. In particular, she describes here how she was rescued from her flooded home by a local community member. In addition, she explains that after FEMA failed to provide them with a temporary trailer, she and her husband were living in a trailer home provided and furnished by a local hunting club.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Florence Dillahunt, May 31, 2001. Interview K-0580. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LEDA HARTMAN:
Do you think the community around your neighborhood and so on, and the whole community in Grifton, responded differently to this flood than in past times when there has been some flooding?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
I think so.
LEDA HARTMAN:
How is that?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Because they had never had that much water before. I don't think they had had that water in Grifton.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I think that's true. And so, how was the response different? How did people react differently this time?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
To me, it wasn't that much of a difference, but they weren't used to it. I was used to it because we had always had high water, but not that much. And when they come in and rescued us that morning, I had called my daughter. We couldn't get out. And my son's telephone had gone dead from the flood, you know, from the storm. I couldn't call him. He had drove in that morning. He come in, but we couldn't do nothing because we couldn't put in no tobacco because there was too much water. He went. They tried to get some out of the field, but the tractor got stuck so they had to stop. We had a barn which we didn't finish filling. He was trying to get enough to go in the barn to finish filling the barn, but he couldn't get it. He lost the tractor, got stuck, so they had to stop. And he thought maybe by the next day he would be able to go back and finish. We had no idea that we were going to get that kind of water. I had cleaned my yards up and done my flowers. I had flowers out there, sitting out there around the trees. That evening my daughter said, "Mama, look at that water rushing in." That water was coming so fast, you could see itߞjust the same as somebody were pumping it.
BETTY HOWES:
Where was that? Backߞ?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Down this road, that water was coming. Then it spreaded on into the yard. It was coming from that way, too.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So you were surrounded?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes, we were surrounded. That evening that water come in so quick, it was getting deep. It had got waist deep in the yard when it got dark. That water come just that fast. So I had called my son and I told him about it. He said "Well Mama, if it's coming that fast," he said, "you all might need a ladder to get on top of the house." I still didn't think it was going to do that much. My husband went out to try to get a ladder, but he couldn't get it. The water was so strong, it almost throwed him down. So he come back to the house. And that night, the water had got up to my porch. It was that porch out there. Did you see how the water had got that deep? I called my daughter in Greenville. Something told me to call her that morning. It was about two o'clock. I kept getting up, going to the door, looking, seeing how high the water was getting. I said, "Gail," I said, "if my phone go dead and I can't call you no more," I said, "when it gets day, you get somebody in here to get us out." And, do you know, my phone went dead? After I got hung up, I picked it back up and I couldn't get another call. So when it got to day, I told my daughter and her husband, "I said you all get up and get ready because I'm looking for somebody to come and pick us up." It weren't too long before I heard something. It was a man on a jet ski. He come through and he went down. He was seeing who was in the houses as he went through. He was going to take them out on the jet ski. [interruption] He went down to pick up two men, and turned them over in the water, so he went back and got a boat and come back.
LEDA HARTMAN:
I guess.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
But he pulled us behind the jet ski on a boat.
BETTY HOWES:
Everybody who could was helping rescue people.
LEDA HARTMAN:
With everything they had?
BETTY HOWES:
With everything they had.
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
Yes, we had a time getting out of here. So when they come pick me up, and he pulled a boat right up beside the porch, I had packed me a bag. He said, "Miss Dillahunt," he says, "I'm not taking anything but you all." I said, "You're not going to let me carry me a bag?" He said, "No." And I said, "You ain't going to let me carry nothing?" He said, "Well, I will let you carry one or two pieces." I had to go back in my room and take my stuff out and put it on the bed.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What did that feel like?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
I cried all the way outߞall the way.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what could you take with you?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
I had a changing of clothes.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And that's it?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
That was it.
BETTY HOWES:
Who was in the boat? You andߞ?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
My husband and Tracy and her husband.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So what was it like to come back? How did you get the money to put up your home now?
FLORENCE DILLAHUNT:
This [trailer] belongs to some people in a hunting club. We weren't able to get one. I couldn't get a trailer from FEMA. I tried to get one from them. So I told my husband, I said, "Well, we got the boat barn." I said, "We'll come back and fix us up a place in the boat barn." I said, "We can stay in there." And so I went to this man's house that Sunday morning with my daughter. I talked to him and I told him if I could get somebody to help me to fix up a place in one of them barns out there, I said, "We could live in the barn." He said, "Miss Dillahunt, we can do better than that." He said, "You just wait a minute." He said, "Hold on." And he said, "I know one of the mens that's got a trailer house that's not using it." He got in touch with me. I give him the telephone number where I was and he told me that they was going to fix it up. They were going to put me some furniture in here. He said "We're going to let you use it as long as it takes." So he told me no longer than about two weeks ago. I told him I still hadn't got a house. I told him "I'm still waiting for some help." He said, "Well, don't worry about it." He said, "As long as you need to stay here," he said, "you stay here." So they painted it and fixed it up. Put refrigerator, stove, and that chair and this chair here, and the bed that's in that room and I had one in my room, that chair right there, the table. In fact, they putting about everything in there.