Sidewalks. That's what I keep thinking about when I think of Columbia. The images coming out of the South Carolina capital are heartbreaking -- residents rescued in boats, homes swallowed by the flood waters. The reporters, as they usually do, are standing by swollen creeks and on broken streets.
Like a lot of people, Columbia was only my home for four years. Later, I got to know the city a city beyond the corners of the university, traveling there to report stories. It was, and is a lovely city, filled with art and education and lest we forget, excellent barbecue. But since the news coverage began, I keep thinking of this image of the sidewalks and all that concrete.
Columbia calls itself "Famously Hot," a brilliant tourism move celebrating the city's growth as a destination and playing off, well, its real heat. The summers are sweltering, all that heat reflecting off the concrete. So many photos of the broken concrete, the broken everything. But there are just as many images of people helping out their neighbors.
Across social media, the hashtag #FamouslyStrong emerged. Attached to it are stories of what we do in the South when tragedy strikes. We help. With food, and bottled water, and rolled up sleeves. Not everything can be rebuilt as it was, but Southerners move toward action.
Sometimes I have dreams about walking around Columbia, maybe because I did so much walking there. Walking and having my first conversation with my best friend Stephanie. Walking to the office building where I worked for a South Carolina senator. Walking, tied to a place where all these parts of me formed and were reshaped.
But that was just a sliver of my life. What's a memory to me is a lifelong home to friends who are posting about neighbors losing everything.
There are many ways to help. I'm a fan of The Central Carolina Foundation, which has established a national South Carolina Flood Relief Fund -- 100% of donations will benefit organizations doing grassroots work in eleven counties in S.C., including those hit the hardest. Another great way to help -- purchase this T-shirt from Made In Soda City. All of those proceeds to to the Central Carolina Foundation. I'm getting one.
Good for walking.