“Thank God we lived through it. The ones that stayed,” said Mary Teston as she reflects on her work with The American Red Cross during Hurricane Hugo.
Hurricane Hugo was one of the strongest hurricanes in South Carolina’s history. Hugo was responsible for nearly 90 fatalities and caused at least $8 to $10 billion in damage.
Mary Teston was a volunteer living in Charleston and worked with the teams that did damage assessment after the storm.
“Being with Red Cross we did damage assessment and I mean you could not even get out of my neighborhood,” said Teston. “A car was overturned. I remember that. Wood everywhere, trees shattered.”
Areas like Mount Pleasant, Awendaw and McClellanville saw historic damage that left thousands without power and destroyed just as many homes.
“You just don’t forget it, you can’t forget it,” said Teston. “Once the roads were clear enough to get the Emergency Response Vehicle out, we would go around and usually have to the park the ERV and walk into the neighborhoods because you couldn’t get through. You would tell them, ‘look give us a chance,’ give them some water and snacks.”
Teston says she would try and help people as much as she could but sometimes all she could do was sit, listen and hug people.
“I would cry with some of them. You would try to be upbeat, but you would have feelings for them. You would go into a house and they would say, ‘everything is gone!,’ and then you would have to remind them that they still had their lives, their children lives, there is hope and we can help,” said Teston. “I cried with a lot of people. I am crying right now. It is just being there, and I reckon that is why I love Red Cross.”
Mary Teston continues to serve as a volunteer with the Red Cross but Hugo and the work she did is still fresh in her mind.
“I have always helped somebody and The Red Cross is the perfect place to help people when they can’t help themselves,” said Teston. “It is a job that no money could be worth the reward you get out of it.