On Monday, Rhonda Carter, the owner of the Treasure Chest Antiques for the last 10 years, was collecting what could be salvaged from the business, whose back end was flattened and contents tossed around during the storm.
“This is my livelihood, and I lost it,” said Carter simply. “I’ve lost a lot. I will probably not be able to relocate, but I don’t want anybody to feel for me. Everybody’s got it just as bad. I know a lot of places were hit hard, but this was one of the hardest hit.”
Carter said the signs were ominous throughout the day Saturday, as the fields nearby kicked up dust and swirled it about for much of the morning and into the afternoon.
“The dust started coming through the vents,” said Carter. “It was just really bad. All day, this area was just really bad.”
Carter’s contact lenses were taking the brunt of it, and she struggled to keep focus. “I went home early for the very first time,” she said. “In 10 years, I had never left early.”
It was around that same time, she got word that the heavy winds were not just in Sampson. Nearly an hour away in Fayetteville, Carter’s parents were feeling the effects of a storm cell that would find its way here.
“My parents called me and told me they were hit, and hit hard,” she said. “They said they were fine, but the roof was gone. I told them, as soon as it passed (Fayetteville), I would go. That was the agreement. Once it did, I left. I never thought twice about the store.”
As she raced west, nearing her parents’ home, her cell phone rang. It was Elbert Cannady, who owned the Treasure Chest building.
“He said, ‘Mrs. Carter, you need to come back here now,’” Carter recalled. “I told him ‘My parents’ house, it’s totaled.’ He said ‘Your store is totaled.’”
Cannady was in his home, located at the rear of his properties lining Roseboro Highway, when the tornado passed through.
“I’ve seen pictures of a tornado, but never seen one,” Cannady said. “It didn’t look like a funnel. It looked like a dark cloud. It was moving so fast. I told my wife it’s time to go.”
They took shelter inside the home and, just like that, it whipped through the area, weaving around N.C. 24 from the west.
“I felt the house shake twice and it was gone,” said Cannady. “I’ve never been in anything like that. It’s hard to explain. There was so much torn up. It is hard to visualize what a couple of seconds can do. I just feel lucky, with all that happened, I feel fortunate to be here today. It seemed like the Lord was looking after us.”
In all, four homes and the antiques shop, all owned by Cannady, were damaged — the antique store got the worst of it, while it was mostly windows and roofs that needed to be repaired on the homes. However, Cannady concedes he has not examined them closely, still trying to process the storm’s impact.
He felt especially bad for Carter, who had been fulfilling her life’s passion in his building for the last decade.
“I feel for her more than I feel for myself,” he said. “I hate for it to happen to someone like that.”
Carter said many had already stopped by the store to offer condolences, well-wishes or a helping hand, all of which have been appreciated.
“A lot of people have stopped by saying prayers for us and helping the best they can,” she said. “We’re all hanging in there.”
She was getting help from outside the county, from N.C. Baptist Men and Women out of Wake Forest, and cadets from Tarheel Challenge were to be assisting also. “I am very fortunate,” said Carter. “I’ve got a lot of good angels here working.” She said there wouldn’t be near enough containers to collect everything, and made a plea to anyone with extra boxes.
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Carter, who said there was a reason for her optimism. “I look at Japan — this is minor. I’ve got my health, I’ve got my life and no one I know lost their life.”
She attested she was preoccupied, forced to deal not only with her own predicament, but also with her parents’ plight. “It’s killing me not to be with my family,” she said.
Like others, Carter was amazed by the devastation the storm left, and what remained unscathed.
“These tables had tables on top of them with glass,” said Carter. “It didn’t touch a piece of glassware. It was a miracle. But the whole back area is completely gone. I’m just glad nobody was in here.”
Larry Carter, who owns several properties along Roseboro Highway, shared the same feelings.
“Thank the Lord no one was killed or hurt real bad,” said Carter, who owned the Larry’s Distribution Company on Roseboro Highway for 24 years before selling the rights to a company out of Stedman. The building was to be the future site of a home health company, which actually had the plans for the building’s layout hanging just inside the door.
Carter was in Sneads Ferry with his family when the news broke.
“We hadn’t been there 15 minutes before we got a call and our preacher told us everything was gone,” he said. “He said it looked like someone dropped a bomb. We thought he was exaggerating.”
Until they arrived in Clinton, and saw the destruction.
“It was almost a shock,” he said. “You would not believe it. You couldn’t walk out here. It was just unreal.”
The mess still left Monday paled in comparison to what everything looked like minutes after the storm, he said. In addition to the distribution warehouse, Larry Carter owns three homes along Roseboro Highway, which all sustained damage. He nevertheless stayed positive.
“We’re blessed,” he said. “All this stuff can be replaced.”
Rhonda Carter agreed, saying she felt blessed, but as the dust settled around her, was realistic about the situation.
“I am fortunate,” said Carter. “People do need to know the Treasure Chest is gone. Unfortunately, I am gone. All I ask is that they keep everyone in their prayers.”
An auction house she opened up just a couple weeks ago will also be closed temporarily as she works to collect the antiques that can be salvaged and attempts to find a place to store them.
“My whole livelihood is just uprooted,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now.”
It was quiet on Roseboro Highway Monday, with little traffic coming through as crews worked on power lines and residents gathered what they could save from their homes and businesses. Roads were closed to traffic via roadblocks located further west on both N.C. 24 and Bonnetsville Road. That was expected to continue until at least the middle of the week.
However, there were some who had to see the damage inflicted.
“I’ve been around 83 years and this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” said Charles Averitt, from Fayetteville but staying in the Autumn Winds Assisted Living facility in Roseboro. “I can’t believe it.”
He said it was amazing to see the amount of devastation, and knowing no one in Sampson lost their life as a result. “The good Lord was with these people,” Averitt remarked.
Despite the twisted trees, mangled metal, crushed buildings and power lines that seemed to intertwine between all of it, Cannady shared the same sentiment nearly everyone felt — he was thankful.
“It was beyond believable,” said Cannady, surveying the damage in front of him. “You think you lost it all, but you’ve got your life. There’s nothing more important than that.”