This is Carolina: ‘Things like this come and make you stronger:’ Family perseveres after home floods twice

A Lumberton family whose home was damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Florence received a...
A Lumberton family whose home was damaged by hurricanes Matthew and Florence received a surprise this week from "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon. (Source: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon)(Source: The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon)
Updated: Dec. 11, 2018 at 11:21 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - There are thousands of families out there still getting their footing after both hurricanes Florence and Matthew.

One of them is the McArthur family from Lumberton, N.C. They haven’t had heat inside their home since Matthew left it with four feet of water inside over two years ago. Two weeks ago, they received news that would change everything.

“I think He just allowed it to happen. We easily think that we’re strong, but things like this come and make you stronger,” Divya McArthur said while inside her downtown Lumberton salon, The Shampoo Bowl. “Situations like this, you see what’s in you then.”

Trash bags filled with belongings are still scattered in the back of the salon. It’s where the family kept their belongings when flooding overcame their home in 2016 and again this year.

“It was like a movie,” Divya’s husband, Terry McArthur, said of the day they left their home for food and gas after Matthew hit, and found out flooding had begun within that 30 minutes.

“She (Divya and Terry’s neighbor) said that water is coming from somewhere. And I said that water’s not going to get that high, it never has. She was right,” Divya recalled.

The McArthurs said they hopped in their neighbor’s truck to rush home through the rising water from the Lumber River. The couple said they grabbed what they could, and moved more to higher ground inside their home.

Their son, Christian, grabbed his sneakers and script for a school play and ran back in the truck.

“It was mind-blowing. So I was following his lead, and I left with workout clothes and a pair of rain boots, not even sneakers because when you leave, you don’t think when you come back home four feet of water is going to be in your house,” Divya said.

Terry said he returned by boat five days later to find everything floating inside their home. It was devastating.

“I wore waders and I was on a boat. If she had come with me she wouldn’t have been able to bear it seeing that," Terry said solemnly.

Terry brought Divya a picture of her grandmother still hanging on the wall.

The couple channeled the strength to keep the faith and persevere through adversity. When the waters receded they got to work and friends helped. The couple said they were back in their home by Christmas that year.

“I think I read a sign that says ‘Mayhem: You know it doesn’t plan. There’s nothing really you can do to plan for it,’” Divya exclaimed.

They never would have guessed less than two years later history would repeat itself. Hurricane Florence hit Sept. 14, 2018.

This time, the McArthurs were able to prepare but tried to stay optimistic. They gathered their things and left, but this time Divya went back to see what Terry didn’t want to know.

“I wanted when I got there to know my floors were dry. Nobody could’ve told me that water would be back, 22 months later that we would be visiting this again. Because they said this was a 100-year flood - this wasn’t going to happen again for another hundred years - but it happened,” Divya said.

Faith is a foundation for the McArthurs. They didn’t want to quit, just like Divya’s grandmother, who built the house in the 1960s. She raised Divya in it, too.

“On Sunday, when we went to get personal things, I was kind of over it and I told him I said, ‘Let’s just leave it,’ and you know, to the powers that be. And he turned to me and we were putting things in the trash bags and he cracked the trash bag and he said, ‘Get to work.’ That was momentous for me,” Divya recalled of Terry’s strength to save the home and keep going.

“We work hard for the things that we have. Why just give up on them? It’s like the thing with faith, how I had the faith to think God didn’t bring us this far just for us to quit. So just keep it moving,” Terry said.

They did.

The couple said they dipped into their savings and the home isn’t quite like it used to be. They have beds, but no washer, dryer or heat. They use Amish heaters.

Their faith paid off unexpectedly after the Home Depot’s disaster recovery program Operation Blessings found out about the family.

Divya said they flew them to New York City to help with the program and future disaster victims like them but were instead surprised by Jimmy Fallon.

The McArthurs were chosen to have their home completely repaired and designed. Fallon surprised them while they were in the audience for a taping of “The Tonight Show.”

Divya and Terry were speechless. They said they’re beyond thankful and are looking forward to normalcy.

When asked what Divya’s grandmother would think of the family facing adversity twice, she said she’d be proud.

“That’s how she raised me. I saw her go through some things and she expected it of me. That’s another purpose of me having the home, I know she’s just smiling down thinking ‘That’s my girl.’”

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