The flood waters of Hurricane Floyd that inundated Princeville, N.C., the oldest town in the country incorporated by freed slaves, also disturbed a generation of Washington area residents who moved here from the communities along the Tar River but never quite left home.
And they are responding by spearheading local help for the hard-hit areas. Churches across the region are collecting bottled water, clothing, food and cleaning supplies, and gospel radio stations are raising money for those whose homes and businesses were inundated by the Tar River's rising waters. At the forefront of the effort are two women with longtime roots near Princeville.
"It really hit home when they said caskets were floating down the river," said 75-year-old Grace Swinson of the District, alluding to reports that more than 35 caskets from Dancey's Cemetery in Princeville were ripped from the ground. "My mother is buried there--yours is, too, Eva," Swinson said to her childhood friend Eva Norfleet, 76.
Norfleet, a Princeville native who has lived in Hyattsville for five years, organized an effort in Prince George's County that has filled three U-Haul storage bins with hundreds of boxes bound for North Carolina.
Swinson has done much the same in the District. Both women, who moved to the Washington area in search of a better life, are now retired from the federal government.
This weekend, as they stacked boxes of food and household goods in a Chillum warehouse, they sang songs that they learned during their North Carolina childhoods.
The Rev. C.L. Long, pastor of Scriptural Cathedral, said Saturday that so many members of his church had relatives affected by the storm that he traveled to Princeville and took 12 truckloads of items, including bottled water, bleach, clothing and food. Long said he will return this week with 15 additional trucks.
Others have turned their singing into fund-raising and food-collecting programs, including a Saturday night gospel concert. Mitchellville gospel promoter Rosetta Thompson said she has sent four truckloads of items to North Carolina. Her husband's group, Sensational Nightingales, began there.
Among those attending Saturday's concert was Daisey Perkins, who was there with her sister Orbie Barnes. Barnes, 62, who lives in Princeville, was in Silver Spring visiting her sister and their 92-year-old mother when flood waters washed away her home and all she had except for the small bag of clothes she packed for the trip.
"I was very spiritually uplifted and encouraged by the concert," said Barnes, who is staying in the area until she finds another place to live.
"Every song that we heard really hit home," Perkins said.
"It was great not just to be here, but because I was helping my people back home in North Carolina."
CAPTION: Crystal Shorter, right, talks with Bishop C.L. Long while contributing clothing and toys to the relief effort.
CAPTION: Marion Robinson, left, and Tamela Worthen enjoy the music at the concert.