Weathering the storms 

Published 12:28 pm Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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Boy, what a week we have had. 

While COVID-19 cases remain one of the lowest in the state for Polk County, the stress and anxiety seems to just keep piling up. 

First was the sudden loss of our beloved Tryon Fire Chief James “Tank” Waters. That one hit hard and was a real punch in the gut for many of us. Tank died unexpectedly last Tuesday at a point when we already had uncertainties and anxiety over the virus and stay-at-home orders. 

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And just when we probably all thought we couldn’t take much more, a fire broke out on Fox Mountain Road. With high winds that day, a small fire turned into burning 21 acres, people losing electricity in their homes and some having to be evacuated. We all prayed for our firefighters as most had just escorted Tank back home from Winston-Salem for an autopsy on Friday afternoon. That was literally the last thing firefighters needed Friday, I’m sure, as the rest of us sat at home thinking to ourselves…is this really happening at a time like this?

We are all so thankful for our local firefighters as somehow they worked into the night after a very emotional week to protect homes and extinguish the fire. While there was significant loss to the plant, there were no injuries or lives lost that day. 

People were also anxious about the first Easter of not being able to attend church or gather with families over the weekend. It was definitely a weird Easter Sunday, but thankfully services were conducted online and many in the area were able to see services from their phones or computers.

Sunday began with a beautiful sunrise and hope from area preachers of a new beginning. To be honest, even if we weren’t social distancing, my night owl self would have never seen that beautiful sunrise in person, so I was thankful for the different kind of Easter. 

And after a beautiful Easter when some may have felt a little rejuvenation spiritually at least, then came the storm. Whew. While we all knew it was coming, there’s nothing quite like being awakened in the middle of the night with loud tornado warning alarms. I’m sure it was just more than most of us could handle at this time. I was awake checking radar and news channels and texting with friends who were huddled in their bathrooms and basements until 7 a.m. My nerves were shot. 

Thankfully the area made it through that storm with no reported injuries or deaths. 

But then Monday rolled around and many had no power and even more had no Internet all day. I swear, I felt like I was living in an episode of Little House on the Prairie all day. 

So, with a week like that, some may be wondering what could be next? Can we mentally weather yet another storm? 

Polk County officials have been holding Zoom meetings weekly with local officials to discuss the COVID-19 virus. Officials include Polk County Health and Human Service Agency Director Joshua Kennedy, Polk County Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge, Polk County Manager Marche Pittman, various St. Luke’s Hospital officials and Polk County School Superintendent Aaron Greene, as well as others who all provide updates. 

Last Thursday the group included Vaya Health Crisis Intervention Team Training Coordinator Melissa Ledbetter who gave some valuable resources for anyone needing help; mentally, that is. 

So, for anyone experiencing anxiety, more than normal stress or worse, there is help out there. And I encourage anyone who may be having one of those days or weeks or months to reach out. A phone call definitely couldn’t hurt for anyone struggling, especially now. 

There is a disaster distress helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The helpline can provide crisis counseling and support to people experiencing emotional distress related to natural or human related disorders. That helpline can be reached at 1-800-985-5990. 

Other numbers to remember are Vaya Health’s Access to Care number of 1-800-849-6127 and the suicide hotline of 1-800-273-8255. 

Stay well friends, both physically and emotionally. We are still all in this together whether it’s a phone call away or from six feet apart.