WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - "We do it for the people. It's nothing for ourselves, it's all for the community," said Whiteville Firefighter Chris Evans when looking back to rescues efforts made during Hurricane Florence in 2018.
The Whiteville Fire Department couldn’t take their trucks out after more than two feet of rain had fallen, but that didn’t stop them from answering the hundreds of calls. Relentless rain, winds and tornadoes knocked down trees and power lines during Hurricane Florence’s wrath.
"We learn to adapt to the situation, and try to do the best we can," said Whiteville Fire Captain Robert Simmons.
High Point and Kernersville firefighters joined the Whiteville firefighters, rescuing more than 100 people from floodwaters - at times using their personal boats and city works trucks.
Emergency Director Hal Lowder said the images he saw will forever be etched in his mind.
“I’m praying and hoping I made the right decision and they all come home tonight,” said Lowder, explaining the internal struggle of coordinating crews. “...Then I have to face their mamma and their daddy and their wives and their kids - that’s the hardest part of my job.”
Water in Soules Swamp rose a foot, and while wind and rain hallowed the calls came in nonstop.
"Those heroes are the guys that made that decision they said they want to keep going 'alright let's do it,' and until I feel it's not safe or you feel like it's not safe we can stop this at any time and those guys didn't stop. Those are my heroes," Lowder said.
And that’s exactly how the community will remember these crews - as heroes.