Saturday, June 14, 2008

Spotlight on Wanda Bond: A Hurricane Camille Survivor

Meet Wanda Bond:

Wanda looking over some script changes at a recent BW rehearsal

Wanda happened to read about the auditions for the Blue Ride Summer Theatre Festival in the newspaper back in March. Having little experience in theatre world did not stop Wanda from coming to check out the auditions, as she was very interested in The Bluest Water project. She decided to stay and have a go at auditioning, and was cast as an Ensemble member in The Bluest Water production. We have been fortunate enough to have Wanda as part of the cast of The Bluest Water as she is a survivor of the tragic storm that was Hurricane Camille. Wanda brings a unique perspective to the process as she and her family survived this tragedy together and she was been willing to share her story with us.Wanda was just a mere twelve years old when Hurricane Camille hit the Nelson County area. Wanda's father was originally from Nelson County and moved his family back to Massies Mill, Virginia from Dover, DE in late 1967. The family had no idea what was in store for them just two years later.

Wanda remembers that it began raining around 6 or 7:00 pm on the evening of August 19, 1969. The family carried on as usual as the forecast had not called for anything serious and everyone went to bed. Wanda's mother woke up around 1:00am due to the sound of something banging against her bed. She realized quickly that it was the wastebasket and stepped out of bed into knee deep water. Wanda's mother immediately woke the rest of the family in order to get out the house as soon as possible. They soon realized this was going to be impossible as they opened the front door only to be greeted by a wall of water that came gushing in. Wanda's father and brother begin to literally swim around the first floor of the house raising the windows in order for the water to flow through. The fear was that since the house was over 100 years old at that the point that it was very likely that the house would get washed away, raising the windows allowed the water to flow through.

Since the family was unable to leave the house, they quickly rushed to the second floor of the home and sat in the middle hall and waited. There were some bedrooms on the second floor but the family decided to stay in the middle to avoid getting hit by any of the falling debris around them. This decision was affirmed when a heavy tree crashed through one of the bedrooms and landed right where Wanda's brother's bed was. Wanda recalls that there was no wind, she can however remember the roar of the water. Wanda along with her father, mother, sixteen year old brother, fourteen year old sister, and nine and three year old brothers continued to wait out the storm. They watched the water slowly rise up the stairs of their home and prayed that it would be over soon. Long into the wee hours of the morning they continued to wait, and pray until the storm passed. The water finally recede enough for them to get out of their home about twelve hours later.

In the middle of the storm and in the early hours of the morning of August 20, 1969, Wanda and her family kept hearing something outside hitting the side of the house and the sound of a child crying. When they went to investigate they discovered Mike Woods, then nine years old hanging on for dear life to the top of the back porch. He had somehow gotten pushed up to their house by the water and was hanging on with one arm while clinging to a dog with the other arm. They could not reach Mike from where they were and Wanda's father literally swam through their house to rescue him.

After the storm was over and Wanda's family was finally able to get out of the house, they went across the street and up the hill to the home of neighbor. Walter Evans home had only been slightly flooded in the basement since his house sat up on a hill. Slowly others joined and people began the desperate search for loved ones that were missing. Wanda recalled that the Salvation Army were the first set of rescue individuals to come in, they provided food and clothing to the shocked members of the community. Wanda also remembered that several Mennonite families came to help with the clean up and searching of missing individuals in the days after the storm. She says that they asked for nothing in return except to hold a tent revival when all was said and done.

Camille left a lasting impact not only on the landscape but on the people who survived this horrific tragedy. When asked how she has dealt with everything since the storm, Wanda responds by saying she thinks that the family really has adjusted pretty well. Of course there was the initial shock of it all as the realization set in that the community that they had once known was never to be the same again. Wanda's mother still to this day cannot sleep through a thunder storm and will literally sometimes go into the hallway of her home to wait it out and does not talk about the experience of Camille all that much. Even though Wanda feels that she has adjusted well, this is the first time she has ever shared her story with the public. She seems glad to do it and has been willing to answer any and all questions we have had for her. Wanda currently lives in Nelson County with her husband and five children (4 daughters and one son).

Wanda we thank you for your perspective and willingness to share your story in order for us to understand a little bit better all that you and so many others went through. We look forward to being able to share the finished show with others from Nelson County and the surrounding areas. The production definitely has a special essence added to it because of you and your experience, which helps to remind us of how personal this story is to many. Thank you again for helping us share the story with others who do not know, in order for people to not easily forget.

Maria Hayden
Endstation Blogger and Production Manager

No comments: