Counselors are "START Strong" at Statesville, NC Resource Center
On Thursday October 11th around 1:30 in the afternoon, START Counselors Naquita Gregory, Shaquawn Ramsey, and Candace Heaggans were sitting together with two guests in the living room of the NC START West Resource Center in Statesville, NC as Tropical Storm Michael approached the area.
"It had been raining all day so we had been stuck inside, one of the counselors was just finishing painting a guest's nails and for some reason, I walked into the sun room," said Naquita. "When I walked in, something told me to look up to the left. It was kind of an out of body experience, I don’t even know how else to describe it, my only words were 'oh my god, a tree is falling on the house'."
"Adrenaline kicked in and we just did what we had to do to make sure the guests were safe and we were safe. The guests were really helpful with each other, they remained calm, we remained calm, and we worked together to quickly and safely get out of the house to a safer place. The first two trees had fallen on top of the van, the house, and five cars parked nearby. As we were running to get to safety we heard another loud boom, it sounded like the middle of the house split. We weren't sure what it was but there were a lot of trees down in the area, our neighbors thought it was a tornado, warnings had been issued before the storm came through."
"None of us had time to grab our car keys, but by some stroke of luck, one of our counselors happened to have her car keys in her pocket that afternoon, and it just so happens that her car was spared." Once the counselors and guests were safely inside the car, they initiated next steps by contacting their Resource Center Director and the Fire Department. Emergency services arrived shortly and helped the counselors collect records and other materials from the house, and confirmed that two more trees had fallen on the house after they were able to get out. During the response, Naquita, Shaquawn, and Candace remained focused on the well-being of their guests- they improvised on lunch by going to a local take-out, brought the guests to a local vocational program, and stayed with them until they were safe with their families.
As for next steps, the counselors said that they are all just trying to stay positive and take things one day at a time. While the Resource Center undergoes necessary repairs, the RC staff will be providing more in-home therapeutic and community support, and through collaboration with an RHA residential program, will be working in their group homes to implement START therapeutic supports in an alternate setting. "The two guests that were with the counselors during the storm are doing well," START West Director Michelle Kluttz said. "We're working with our clinical director to develop some trauma-focused supports for working with them."
"I am grateful there were no apparent injuries to anyone during this tragedy, as it certainly could have turned out quite differently. The Resource Center Counselors went above and beyond their normal duties, and carried a little luck or “something” with them throughout this storm. They shared that they just did what they had to do, and thank goodness! START West will return better than before, #STARTSTRONG!" - Michelle Kluttz