One Month After Hurricane, Family Dealing with Stress
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) _ The children have returned to school and a paper Halloween pumpkin hangs at the door, but fitful sleep, sudden anger and friends on food stamps keep Hurricane Hugo on the minds of Ben and Kathy Troughton.
″The aftermath, to me, has been worse than the hurricane,″ Mrs. Troughton said in an interview last week, a month after the deadly storm slammed into South Carolina.
″The confusion, the sadness and just watching people you know with everything destroyed, to me, is the worst part.″
Hugo left some 50,000 people homeless, 18 dead and at least $4 billion damage in South Carolina when it struck Sept 21. By the time the hurricane faded away in the Northeast, 29 people on the U.S. mainland and some 56 in the Caribbean were dead.
Like thousands of others, the Troughtons are trying to cope with the aftermath of the most expensive hurricane in U.S. history. The roof of their home must be replaced and the interior repainted to hide water damage.
″Frankly, we feel very guilty because we’ve had it really so very easy compared to everybody else,″ Ben Troughton said.
The night the hurricane came ashore with 135 mph winds, the Troughtons and their three children huddled in their split-level, wood-frame home across the harbor from Charleston. The family had waited too late to leave for an emergency shelter, a decision Troughton says he has only recently fully considered.
″I feel like I took my children’s and my wife’s lives in jeopardy by staying here and I would never, ever do that again,″ he said.
″I was more scared the night of the hurricane than I ever was,″ he added. ″I had my three children lying on a mattress on the kitchen floor because I felt that was the safest place in the house. And Kathy and I sat there staring at each other for four hours.″
Because downed power lines and other dangerous debris littered the streets after the storm, the Troughtons sent Adam, 11, and Zachary, 3, to Georgia to stay with relatives. Fifteen-year-old Scott, a sophomore and football player at Wando High School, stayed behind to help remove fallen trees.
″We paid the Wando offensive and defensive line to come over and haul off the debris from the front yard,″ said Troughton, who returned to his job at a rental car agency within a week.
At first, the Troughtons and their neighbors cooked on gas grills outside and spent most of their time in their gargages, which were cooler than their homes with the air conditioning out.
Troughton says normalcy began to return when electricity was restored after nine days and the children came home from Georgia.
Then came Scott’s friends - six or seven a night for three nights - staying while their own families tried to find replacements for their destroyed homes.
Though generators no longer roar outside powerless homes, Mrs. Troughton and Scott say sleep is still difficult for them.
″You’ve got so much adrenaline flowing,″ Scott said, ″you’re scared it might happen again.″
His football games and Adam’s soccer games restarted, adding to the sense of normalcy, but with a twist. Spectators were ″frustrated and tired and angry, and they would let the referee just have it,″ said Mrs. Troughton.
She tried to explain contradictory emotions: ″You know that there’s tragedy and you’re real, real sorry. But there’s that selfishness inside, that ’I’ve got enough problems of my own.‴
She described being in the grocery checkout line, though, shortly after Hugo and having an acquaintance turn to her:
″She said, ‘Have you ever used food stamps? I’m so ashamed.’ It’s people like that that you really do feel sorry for, because it’s not only that they need it, their pride is hurt.″