Destroyed homes. Crumbling roads. Breached dams. No food. No water. No shelter. These are just a few of the myriad catastrophes that engulfed South Carolina during what has been referred to as the Thousand Year Flood. Close to six trillion gallons of rain drenched the entire state in early October 2015, leaving destruction and a long road to recovery in its wake.
As a result of this tragedy, government agencies and the University of South Carolina itself were closed for an entire week. Rather than revel in the mini-vacation, University of South Carolina School of Law students, faculty, and staff rose to meet the challenges gripping their communities.
The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) aided flood victims by ensuring many without homes or power had food. Several students from the organization along with Romona Keith, law registrar and director of academic services, volunteered with Harvest Home Food Bank. They packed over 420 boxes with nonperishable food items, which were distributed to flood victims. These boxes contained a variety of canned food items, applesauce, and juice boxes, all of which were donated to flood victims throughout the area.
Valerie Lawrence, a second-year student who serves as the Matthew J. Perry Chapter Historian and National Moot Court Specialist for BLSA, said, “The storm and flooding in South Carolina was troublesome for many people, but the unity among members of the community reminds us of the good-will and southern comfort that exists in South Carolina. BLSA was glad to be involved in those efforts.”
Another group of students drove to the Lake Katherine area, offering to help anyone who asked. They cleaned houses, packed other people’s belongings, and held survivors as they cried. Whenever they were asked who they were, they simply replied that they were USC Law students. Professor Susan Kuo, who accompanied the students to Lake Katherine, said, “I was proud of our students for responding to the community’s need and struck by how much they enjoyed helping others.”
Matthew Poppe, a third-year student, said, “Helping these people out on our days off from school was the least we could do. They were so kind and appreciative of our help, and that’s what I will remember most.” As with the other students who braved the devastation, Poppe was deeply moved by the survivors’ resilience and fortitude. “It was really special to see how little their homes and belongings meant as long as they were assured that everyone was alright. The amount of support from friends, families, and neighbors was really amazing to see.”
Melonie Langdon, the student who led the volunteers, feels the same way. “My fellow classmates and I were happy to assist others in a time of need. It was a rewarding experience to see the community come together and be a part of it.”
“Words cannot express the heartfelt gratitude we have for the eight law students, led my law clerk Melonie Langdon, who showed up on my husband’s and my doorstep to assist with the clean-up with the aftermath of the flood. But that was not enough; they proceeded to help our neighbors, all the while with a smile and caring spirit. It is a gift that we shall always treasure,” she wrote in a letter to Dean Rob Wilcox.
Professor Kuo said of the students’ response, “This bodes well for the legal profession. Lawyers provide service to others; often, lawyers are retained to provide help when clients are at their most vulnerable.”