A thousand words beyond the Hill

James Branaman

Twenty or so miles inland from the stilt standing beach houses of the islands that make up the Outer Banks, water surrounds a small mobile home. It’s not a vacation home, it’s just home. The Cadillac in the backyard is submerged to the bumpers. Aluminum lawn furniture pokes out above the brown murkiness.

Looking over her flooded yard through the back door, Johnnie Mae Marner speaks of her husband, Billy Ray Marner.

“He didn’t have to witness this mess,” Marner said, referring to the damage wreaked upon their community in Columbia, N.C.

Marner’s husband died on Wednesday, Sept. 17, the night before hurricane Isabel made landfall along the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

“God knows what He is doing,” she says.

She stares silently, her face lit by a kerosene lantern. Her grandson, Brandon Bowser, jumps across six inches of water to the ramp leading to the wooden front porch and makes his way through a small hallway to survey the sagging bedroom ceiling left behind by the rain.

“That thing looks like it might cave in.” he says.

They aren’t alone though. Outside at dusk, the crowd resembles a church letting out on Sunday. Neighbors stand around, kids ride bikes. They know that at nightfall the curfew sets in, but for now, they just want to be out of the house.

After the hurricane, those residents who have homes intact are to remain in them or receive fines after dark to discourage looting. National guard convoys have already started making their way to these coastal communities, and the rebuilding will soon begin.

James Branaman is a senior photojournalism major from Berea, KY. He can be reached at [email protected]