|"The Storm" by phenomenal SC artist Jim Booth|
I was 5 years old when Hugo struck. It was a category 5 when it hit my beloved Charleston. By the time Hugo got to me (just outside Charlotte, NC) it was a category 3 storm. Hugo didn't die down to a tropical depression until he hit the North Carolina mountains.
We were without power for nearly three weeks and when the power came back on I was horrified by images of a flooded and destroyed Charleston, SC. I remember thinking it would never be the same. My grandpa told me not to worry. "That's a Carolina City pumpkin. Carolina folks are hardy. They'll fix it," he said. I didn't believe him. I didn't see how they could fix it. I thought some things must just be beyond fixing.
The above painting shows the Charleston Battery right before Hurricane Hugo hit. You can see the beauty of the historic houses and the amazing height of the waves. It looks like tragedy is about to strike, and indeed that is exactly what happened.
But that's not what I see when I look at this painting. I see perseverance, strength, and determination. At five years old I thought my favorite place in the whole wide world was destroyed forever, but it wasn't. My grandpa drove us to Sullivan's Island the next summer, just like he did every year, and when our car rumbled over the old Cooper River Bridge (fully repaired) I knew it was okay and so was my city.
Nothin' is beyond fixin' and every trial and tribulation can be overcome. Charleston taught me that at six years old following one of the worst storms in history. Charleston is a living city and it is a living testament of human strength and love. I knew that as a small child and I know that now.
As I grew older I feverishly researched Charleston's history. Charleston has survived fires, major earthquakes, and several hurricanes. It's beauty remains in tact. Its charm resonates in every ballast stone in its oldest streets. It's a Carolina city and like the Carolina folks who love it, it is strong and resilient. It withstands the test of time. It is still my favorite place on earth.