As a child I loved watching the drawbridge open and boats pass through on my way to Hilton Head Island. My first trip over the bridge was in 1968. I was crossing the first bridge that connected the island to the mainland.
When we spent the day on Hilton Head, we knew we had to be self-sufficient. We took food and water, bug repellent and suntan lotion, fishing tackle and bait, and always a kite to fly.
My brother and I picked hundreds of oysters from the local beds, opening them in hopes of finding a pearl. My dad threw a shrimp net with ease. Our freezer at home had milk cartons (the old cardboard milk cartons) brimming with shrimp year round.
I loved the Lowcountry so much as a child that I returned here permanently when I graduated from college. For 34 years this has been home. I was married on Hilton Head, christened four children in St Andrew-by-the-Sea United Methodist Church, made lifelong friends, worked at a job that I love, and tried to make this a better place to live. I have experienced great joy and inexplicable sorrow on our beautiful island. I buried a child here, and I survived because of the people. You engulfed me in love. You carried me when I could not carry myself.
Now is the time to carry each other. Reach out to friends and neighbors, know no strangers, and tackle what may seem daunting, one day at a time. When you feel weary, let someone else carry you. Regain strength and then tackle another day.
We will recover together. We will rebuild, re-establish and reinvent together. We may need to be self-sufficient for the day — but remain steadfast in knowing what we built we can rebuild.
The Gullah translation of Psalm 23 says it beautifully: “De Lawd me shephud. A hab ebryting wa A need.” I have everything I need.
Driving over the bridge will always be coming home.
I hope one day soon we can all meet on the beach and fly kites.