Apartment complex residents helped each other through Isabel

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Eighty-year-old Margaret P. Herring was glad Red Cross volunteers were on hand when Hurricane Isabel hit Sept. 18.

Herring, who has lived at Suffolk Towers for 19 years, said her son had warned her by phone that Isabel would likely hit her apartment complex hard at the corner of Market and Main streets.

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&uot;I am on the front of the building and I recognized that my windows could blow out in the storm,&uot; said Herring. &uot;Our lights went out about 10:30 a.m. Sept. 18, when the storm started. I was prepared and along with the others who live in the Towers, I went downstairs to the lobby. We lit candles and some of us had flashlights. We could do nothing except await the impact of the hurricane, just as everyone else was doing.&uot;

Naturally, as the afternoon and its stress wore on, some of the tenants of the Towers were distressed as they watched violent winds whip the rain into torrential pools as it skittered along the sidewalks and ran deep in the streets. Herring said they watched as the small trees planted along Main Street were bent nearly to the sidewalks.

There are 60 apartments and 90 residents in the Towers. There are also four retail stores in the building. Most of the residents stayed right where they live; facing the storm even though they were extremely frightened.

&uot;We had faith in this concrete building and God,&uot; said Herring. &uot;The Towers was built in 1925 through the direction of Amedeo Obici, the founder of Planter’s Peanuts and the hospital,&uot; said Herring. &uot;Others who helped include the late George W. Truitt, John B. Pinner, Richard L. Brewer and three others. There were 100 stockholders and the building was originally the Hotel Elliott.&uot;

With its historic faade still intact, the Towers withstood the storm, but its residents were like everyone else; without power and with freezers full of spoiling meats.

&uot;That’s when we all got together at the suggestion of some of the Red Cross Volunteers including Mary Anne Banks, Larry Lowder, and Sonny Wiggins, and we had a great barbecue,&uot; said Herring. &uot;Sonny lives in the building with us and he was just wonderful. Mary Anne and Larry were also so wonderful to us. I cannot say enough for all of them. The training I got through the Red Cross Disaster Services program was just invaluable in this incident.&uot;

Herring added that the residents of the Towers also thanked people from Coastal Pest Control, who brought them ice, and special thanks went out to Suffolk’s police, fire and rescue units and the Dominion Power and VDOT employees, all of whom worked so hard to bring power and comfort to those affected by the hurricane.

&uot;God saw fit to bring all of Suffolk through the storm and we can go on with our lives,&uot; said Herring. &uot;I pray for those who are still recovering from the hurricane, and I also thank God for people like Mary Anne, Larry, and Sonny, and the Red Cross of Suffolk.&uot;