Three cities, one name, one mission
When Hurricane Hugo ravaged Lowcountry in Sept. 1989, the town of Somerville, New Jersey stepped up to help the town of Summerville, S.C.
Twenty-five years later, Summerville, S.C. has reached out to help those far away friends in the northeast, where Superstorm Sandy wreaked so much havoc in October.
Two Summerville Fire Department firefighters, Capt. Wayne Headden and Firefighter Dustin Mizzell recently made the 1,600 plus mile trip in a truck loaded with some 1,800 pounds of supplies for victims of Sandy.
“We really appreciate the people in our community – they really came together on this,” SFD Capt. Jacob Evans said. “We were just speechless at the amount of items that came in – we can’t thank everyone enough for their generosity.”
In fact, he remembers one woman, especially, who showed up at Town Hall with a carload of supplies, then left and returned a few hours later with more, Evans said.
“She went out and spent something like $400 at the Dollar Store, and brought it all back here,” he said.
It was all part of a coordinated effort by three towns, Summerville, S.C., Somerville New Jersey, and Somerville, Massachusetts, Mayor Bill Collins said.
Collins, who was owner/publisher of the Journal Scene when Hurricane Hugo ravaged the Lowcountry, said he clearly remembered the relief efforts from neighbors near and far, especially from the town of Somerville, New Jersey.
“What they did was extraordinary,” Collins said. “As I recall, they sent two trucks loaded with supplies as well as monetary donations.”
In fact, the town of Somerville, N.J. ultimately presented then Mayor Berlin G. Myers a check for more than $11,000, Collins said.
“When Sandy hit the northeast, I knew we needed to get involved,” Collins said.
As it turned out, Somerville, NJ, which is some fifty miles from the New Jersey coast, did not sustain nearly the damage Summerville did during Hurricane Hugo.
“When Hugo came through, it was a category 4 storm and being as close to the coast as we are, we took some very serious wind damage,” Collins said. “Sandy, on the other hand, didn’t do much wind damage, but it was an amalgamation of two major storms and it did some tremendous flood damage to the coast up there.”
As a result, the three towns decided to coordinate relief efforts to send much needed supplies to the most seriously devastated areas of the New Jersey coast, Collins said.
The town to which Headden and Mizell finally took the supplies was the village of Toms River, New Jersey, which was a staging area for relief efforts. In fact, they received an assist from an old friend and former SFD firefighter, Mike Quick, who recently relocated to that area.
“Mike was a tremendous help to us,” Headden noted. “That’s his home – he’s from there originally and knows that whole area very well. He was able to save us a lot of time from having to search everything out.”
Headden, like Collins, was here during Hugo and remembers what the post storm wreckage was like.
“It’s a real good feeling to know that you can help people,” he said. “I know how long it took after Hugo for us to get back to normal.
“I think it’s a good thing for all of us anytime we can help our friends and neighbors, near or far away,” he said. “It’s a good feeling.”