Barbara Pittman dragged water-logged carpet from her husband's church today, past walls where the Tar River had left a dark line more than a foot above her head.
"Through it all I didn't cry, but this morning I saw all the work we had to do," she said from the steps of His Majesty Church. "I sat down and said, 'Lord, we just need some help.' Then we heard the knock on the door. That was the first time I cried."
As flood waters receded today and people began scrubbing mud and debris from homes and stores across eastern North Carolina, volunteers by the bus load made their way into ravaged communities like Tarboro to lend a hand.
The Rev. James Hight was waiting outside Pittman's door this morning with seven members of his Axton, Va., congregation and a trailer of supplies. Across town, Asheville telephone repairman Mike Wright was rewiring a darkened law office for an attorney he had never met.
"Everybody's opened their heart, and it's just poured out," said John Jenkins, 57. He leaned against the doorway of his real estate office and watched strangers pull water-damaged equipment from neighboring businesses onto downtown sidewalks to be hauled away.
Twenty-nine emergency shelters remained open with 2,790 residents, and parts of the state were still under water. About 7,800 homes and businesses were still without power, more than 790 North Carolina homes had been destroyed, and the state said 47 people had died because of Hurricane Floyd.
Federal officials have estimated the destruction wrought by Floyd will top the $6 billion in damage caused in the state three years ago by Hurricane Fran.
"For the most part, this region is not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination," said Tad Boggs, a spokesman for Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. "You see people who didn't have much who have lost it all."
Since the governor went on national television Tuesday pleading for help for his battered state, more than $329,000 has poured into a state relief fund.
Churches and schools have become collection centers for clothing, cleaning supplies and other much-needed items. And corporate donations have rolled in to supplement federal grants and loans to help flood victims get back on their feet.
Other gifts have been more creative. At Tarboro's shelters, people left homeless by the flood waters munched on 400 pounds of spareribs, chicken and sandwiches donated by the Community Culinary School of Charlotte, a job-training program for the unemployed.
Across Tarboro, there were small signs of gratitude for the volunteers' good works.
On a road leading to the Edgecombe County emergency operations center, someone had taped up a piece of cardboard with the message on it: "Thank you to the USA for all your help. Tarboro loves you."