Seven months after Matthew, Lumberton looking towards a new norm - | WBTV Charlotte

Seven months after Matthew, Lumberton looking towards a new normal

(Sarah-Blake Morgan | WBTV) (Sarah-Blake Morgan | WBTV)
LUMBERTON, NC (WBTV) -

The Lumber River has long been the lifeblood of the town that bears its name. But on October 9 of last year, Mother Nature turned its waters against them. 

It changed everything for Shyanne Scott and her family. 

"My mom called about 4, 5 o'clock. She said, 'Shyanne, where are you? The water is rising,'" she said. 

It happened fast. Shyanne and her family had a decision to make - get out now or risk losing your life.

"Just to know that what you're leaving now, you're not going to come back home to," she said. 

When she came back by boat the next day, her childhood home was no more. 

"Every time I come over here I just want to cry. It's just sad. This is where I grew up. I have so many memories here. My neighbors feel like family," she said. 

It's hard for Shyanne to walk through the dream home her father built her mother. She gets emotional thinking about the endless list of memories she experienced in the home that's now a shell of what it once was. The inside has been ripped down to the studs, and mold covers what's left of the walls.

Shyanne knows her family will never live there again. 

"It was just destroyed in a day. So it's just depressing," she said.

Shyanne's story is not unique in Lumberton. Linda Oxendine sees the reality of what Hurricane Matthew left behind every single day as the Director of Public Services for the City of Lumberton.

"I think for anyone living in our community we are still in disbelief of what happened here," Oxendine said.

She was born and raised in Lumberton and has worked for the city for three decades. Oxendine was scheduled to retire at the end of 2016, but has postponed that indefinitely.

"I was not in a position where I felt like I could leave my community at a time where I felt like they really needed the support of the city," she said. 

Nearly seven months later and many parts of Lumberton are still frozen in time. Full apartment complexes sit abandoned as the mail hangs out of boxes, waiting to be picked up. School buildings also stand silently hoping to be filled with children once again.

"We don't know what the new normal is going to be," Oxendine said. 

But if you listen closely, you'll hear the sound of progress across Robeson County as people fight to bring their city back to life.

Gary Locklear is with the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

"We're looking at a long term recovery that will last three to five years and maybe longer. We don't know yet. But it's a major, major disaster for this area," he said. 

Of the dozens of organizations that invaded Lumberton in the wake of the floods to help them rebuild, only a few remain.

Along with the Methodists, the North Carolina Baptist Men are hoping to rebuild 1,000 homes in the next five years. 

Robeson County was already a poor one and today flood victims are still living in hotels or anywhere they can find.

"A lot of them are going from family member to family member and in between, sleeping in a vehicle," Oxendine said. 

Both organizations have purchased long term properties to house volunteers coming into rebuild from around the country. 

Billy Layton with the NC Baptist Men says the families they're dealing have nothing. 

"They didn't really have much to start off with. They were living paycheck to paycheck as the old saying goes. They had some stuff, but not a lot of stuff," he said. 

Shyanne, like so many in Lumberton, doesn't have many physicals tokens left of her past.

"Actually what I have now, it was donated," she said pointing to her dress. 

Shyanne and her family are rebuilding in another area that's out of a flood zone and despite the mess, she's thankful for the clear skies above.

"You really can't ave too much pride in a situation like this. You just take what you can and be grateful and I am," Shyanne said. 

Both the Methodists and Baptists plan to be in Lumberton for years to come. They rely heavily on donations. You can give at Baptists on Mission here, or at www.ncumc.org.

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