Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Meet Me at the Tree

Posted September 5, 2006

"Meet me at the tree." Those were the directions I gave ace videographer Jay Jennings about 2:30AM ten years ago today. I couldn't get out of my neighborhood to get to work for the morning news program on WRAL. Trees toppled by Hurricane Fran blocked both exits from the Cary subdivision. Jay lived nearby and was able to maneuver his way toward my house. Just as I uttered those words over my cell phone a large pine tree came crashing down on the roof of our sunroom. A skylight cracked as I reached to hug my wife Cindy goodbye. Rain poured in. Then another tree walloped our home upstairs. Another crack. More rain coming through. This time the location was more convenient. Water flowed into the bathtub of the master bedroom. That look on Cindy’s face said it all: “I want you to stay but I know you must go and report on the hurricane at WRAL.” Bungled up in my green Gortex suit I ran down the street to meet Jay at the tree. The ride in was the most terrifying of my life. Jay was like Indiana Jones dodging trees and power lines raining down. He did a great job and we made it to the station safely. Jim Payne and Greg Fishel were broadcasting live on the breezeway at WRAL. I jumped into the action and began a marathon broadcast. The ensuing weeks were marked by stories of pain and suffering but also by heroic and helpful neighbors. My mother-in-law was my hero. She took over while Cindy and I went on our anniversary vacation shortly after the hurricane hit. That was no small chore with no power for more than a week, two children and suffocating heat. Who were your heroes during Hurricane Fran? Please share!

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Bill Leslie