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Title: Oral History Interview with Bert Pickett, December 18, 1999. Interview K-0285. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Pickett, Bert, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thompson, Charles
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2004
Size of electronic edition: 124 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2004.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Wanda Gunther and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-12-08, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Bert Pickett, December 18, 1999. Interview K-0285. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0285)
Author: Charles Thompson
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Bert Pickett, December 18, 1999. Interview K-0285. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0285)
Author: Bert Pickett
Description: 110 Mb
Description: 33 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 18, 1999, by Charles Thompson; recorded in White Stocking, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Bert Pickett, December 18, 1999.
Interview K-0285. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Pickett, Bert, interviewee


Interview Participants

    BERT PICKETT, interviewee
    CHARLES THOMPSON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I'm Charlie Thompson. I'm with the Southern Oral History Program. I'm here with Elder Bert Pickett who is the pastor of the—
BERT PICKETT:
Church in Wallace, Mount Pleasant All Saint Pentecostal Holiness Church in Wallace.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And now we're here in the White Stocking community at his house. It's December 18, exactly one week away from Christmas. We're standing here beside his FEMA trailer and outside of his home, where the Christmas tree is set up outside, right here, underneath the awning of the trailer. We're talking about the flood that's still here with us really.
BERT PICKETT:
About fourteen weeks after the storm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Fourteen weeks.
BERT PICKETT:
Something like that I think.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So, if you would tell us about how long you've been here in the community. Tell us some about the community itself—the White Stocking community.
BERT PICKETT:
Well, I've been here twenty-five years in this community, twenty-five years. This is kind of a quiet community. It's grown since I've been here probably about one hundred and fifty percent.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
A hundred and fifty percent.
BERT PICKETT:
Probably grown that much since I've been here. When I came down here there weren't that many houses, twenty-five years ago. Kind of a quiet community and you have—and this is what you call a working community. A lot of people come and retire here, but you've got a lot of hard working people that live in this community. I bought this land right here from the contractor that built my house.

Page 2
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How much land is here?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, I actually own about a half an acre.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right here along the highway. They call this White Stocking Road?
BERT PICKETT:
White Stocking Road. I live on 2625 White Stocking Road. I still keep my—when I lived in Burgaw town, if you call it a town—I keep my post office box. I don't get rural mail. I get mine at the post office. But it's still White Stocking Road.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Has your family always been here in Pender County that you know of?
BERT PICKETT:
Yes. My family has been here for almost a hundred years probably in the county. My daddy died in'96 and he was ninety-two; so, most of our family came out of Duplin and Pender.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you know how—do you know any history about where your family came from?
BERT PICKETT:
No. As far as I can go back is Duplin County. My ancestors came out of Duplin County—the Picketts. I guess, when they were freed, I think, or something. I can't go too far back.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did they become farmers at that point in this community?
BERT PICKETT:
I'm originally from the Maple Hill community.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Maple Hill, okay.
BERT PICKETT:
And they were farmers, just like any other community, carpenters. My daddy used to work in the—my granddaddy, back then, you're talking sixty or seventy years ago, he was a logger—worked in the log wood—which my dad would tell me about. But he died when my dad was a teenager or early teen, and he had to take over the family. He grew up and did the best he could. Back then, my granddaddy made a lot of

Page 3
money. He was hardworking and made good money. When you make a couple hundred dollars a month, like you're talking sixty or seventy years ago, that's a lot of money for anybody. If he'd been just out of—I think we figured it up, I'm like three generations out of slavery. My great-granddaddy was a slave. I think we did—we want to talk about the flood though, right?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
No. I really want—what we've done so far is talk about what people had, so then we know how long they've been here, and we have an idea of what they've lost. So no, you're not going off on a wrong track.
BERT PICKETT:
So I'm just saying how I came up. I'm the first in my family that went to— that finished high school. I went in the military. I had another brother that went to the military. My daddy was a farmer, worked on a farm. He never did make much money. We were poor, but we didn't know we were poor because we had clothes and we had food. We had hogs and chickens. I guess, it's not the amount of money you make to live well because we always—I've never been hungry. My dad always took care of us. Now I believe the same thing. I believe in working. I've been working since I was thirteen.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you have another job?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. I work on Camp Lejeune. I didn't get home this morning until about five something because I left the job at four o'clock this morning. I've been working as a —I work in a big store, the commissary. I'm the night foreman there. We stock what everybody takes out during the day. I've been there for about—I just got my thirty-year plaque. I asked if they could give me another one because it got destroyed in the flood. So I've been with the government for thirty years—with my military time, two years in the military.

Page 4
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So right after you got back from Vietnam, you stayed in and worked at Camp Lejeune?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. When I got back from Vietnam, I didn't work for about six months because I got kind of wounded. I got hit in the back of the—I got medevaced back after about eight months in Vietnam.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
With shrapnel.
BERT PICKETT:
Before the rocket hit my personnel carrier. It was just the goodness of God I didn't get killed. Nobody got—I got the worst wound that day in my platoon. That was good. I just got a million dollar wound. Something to get you off the front line because I didn't really see coming back here alive, really didn't.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Because it was so bad.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. And this is the worst thing since Vietnam. I'm telling you the truth. This is devastating to lose everything you've worked for, for twenty-five years. And some people down here have worked longer than I have, you know, older than I am— sixty-year-olds and seventy-year old and eighty-year-old people. It's time for them to not work anymore, seventy and eighty-year-old people. If you haven't accumulated it by then, you won't get it. That's why I'm so hurt for other folk. Somebody asked me, "Did you ever ask God why?" I said, "Yeah." I say this, "Why not me only and let the other people because I'm a fighter." I don't give up. Some people have already given up. You can tell it in their voice, the hurt.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How can you tell in someone's voice, you know what I'm saying?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, well. When they're talking to you, the things they say are always negative. You see, more people'll come by and say you're a flood victim. I don't like to

Page 5
use that term. I'm a flood survivor. You see the word that you use puts into your spirit what you are. You can either be a survivor or you can be a victim. I refuse to be a victim. I'm a survivor. It's going to take a while to get back to where we were, but I believe with God's help we can be back where we were and maybe a little bit better. Get a chance to do your house like you've been wanting to do it all of your life. Just nobody thought it would be like this though. I had a dream I'm remodeling a church—a daycare in Wallace, been doing some work there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It was not flooded?
BERT PICKETT:
Nothing happened to it, maybe two shingles, maybe. So much now it's nothing. I had a dream, I told them last Sunday, I dreamt that somebody wrote me a seven thousand-dollar check. I was thinking about for the church. I'm just thinking, I've got church on my mind, finishing their building. Some things going to take—my air conditioning unit is going to take seven thousand dollars to get that completed. I had a dream that somebody, I never could see the person's face—this was like three or four weeks before the storm came. Ironic as that sounds to me, I guess when you look at it, I see where the money was coming from. I couldn't figure out, why was somebody writing me a check and I couldn't see their face. It was like in a dream. I guess it was like a— some people say vision—I say God showing me things that I couldn't really interpret. But after this happened, I saw what it was. Money's going to come in, but we're going to need every bit of it. Seven thousand dollars won't put— won't do anything, won't buy half your furniture.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you did lose everything. You lost all your furniture.

Page 6
BERT PICKETT:
Everything. All your furniture. I saved a few clothes, shoes, good shoes— Sunday go to meeting shoes, that they call them. But that's, the house is more important than anything else that I lost. But if I can get it back like I want to, I can take my time. Your personal things—you lost things that can never be replaced like your pictures that you've taken of Vietnam. Your family pictures that you've taken. Some that are damaged beyond repair. Things that you just can't get back. A friend that's dead that you won't see them again, you had their photo. You had your photos of your friends from Vietnam. You can't get them back because you don't know where the guys are. You are talking about thirty years ago, '66, '67, '68. So that's gone. All you've got are memories. How are you going to—. It's hard to put into a picture sometimes. This was a blow, a hard blow to a lot of people. It was about—in this community, a couple weeks before this storm came—we had a storm before this one, small.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Dennis, right?
BERT PICKETT:
Dennis. And one of my deacons and I came by and I said, "Let's just be nosy." And so we were going in the community to see how many houses. I didn't really know that that many people lived down here. I figured, we counted close to about two hundred families down here—close to it. I counted so many mobile homes, doublewides, and things that I just stopped counting. I went down to this one place and counted over forty. And there's like, in one section there might be forty, and then you've got four different sections. So I'm figuring, it's close to two hundred families down here. Very close to it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
All of them flooded?

Page 7
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah, everybody. Ninety—I think we had five houses out here probably that didn't flood. Some parts of it might have just flooded a little bit. But they were flooded in. If they weren't in the house, you couldn't get out. You had to get out on a boat. We had to leave on Friday morning—Friday afternoon—about two o'clock on a boat.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Why did people come down here in White Stocking? Do you have any idea about what drove people down here to live? And why are the new people coming?
BERT PICKETT:
It's quiet. It's good, a good area. The cost of living isn't really that bad. If you've got your transportation, you can leave here easily. The only thing you need here is your transportation and you got it made. It's a good area to live here. You see, it's like this here, only time it's not is during the fishing time and when the hunters are down here. It's a good area to live in.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Because there's a boat launch ramp.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
About a mile. Yeah we did go down there.
BERT PICKETT:
Did you see where the water line was?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
There was one for Floyd and one for Fran down here, about a ten-foot difference. So it's been a quiet place to live?
BERT PICKETT:
A good place to live. People work, tend to their business, and you know folk. And what's so good about it, everybody's like a community now, even better. At one time, we were working too much and hardly had time to communicate. But now, I told the people, now we've got time to talk. It's a bad way to be. But now things have happened, so you've got to communicate. Well, everybody—this is a working community. People work. White and black work.

Page 8
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now white and black live in White Stocking?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Some live back behind, the lady where you just interviewed. White folk live back closer to the water. You've got—live all over, like scattered. When you first come in, mostly white. Down here, in this section here, white and black. And around in there, white and black. It's a mixture. And it done this since I've been here. When I first came here you could count—twenty-five years ago, you could count the houses, count the families. You knew the families. But now it's grown so much, by me working nights basically, you don't even know who's back here now. It's grown just that much. It's really a nice community though. It really is. It's a good place to live.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That AME Church down here is a center—
BERT PICKETT:
Was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Point, was, of the community.
BERT PICKETT:
It got destroyed. It about broke my heart. That's God's house, man, it got devastated. Just like my house, but it's God's house. It got devastated. And everybody's house got hit basically. Just got destroyed. Water got in it just like everything else. And it really was a bad thing happened to good people.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And y'all live here close to the river on one side and this other lady down there on the other side. Describe that.
BERT PICKETT:
This is like a swamp off from the river. That's not the river there. That's like a swamp off from the river, behind my house. That's where the water came like from Fran. And when the water got high, you could just ride there. No force. When it came up from Fran, we had fish across the highway. We didn't see any fish in this water. I haven't seen one, the first fish. I was gone probably. But we didn't see any fish. When

Page 9
Fran came, fish were across the highway. The water had got—but it wasn't deep. But this water—they come from behind us—this water came like over here, in front of us.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In front.
BERT PICKETT:
Yes, and beside us. It didn't come like you expect the water to get high like this. It didn't do that. That's why it's so—it got everybody so disturbed. The water didn't move like it normally moved. Everybody was saying it was turned down from Raleigh. That's what they feel like, it's (covert) in there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You were saying that earlier, and we didn't get that on tape.
BERT PICKETT:
I was talking to—when the storm came, I was out of work for a month. I didn't go to work for a month. Thank God, I had a decent job, and I had leave time, and I could stay out a month. And I didn't suffer anything but just a loss. I could still have my—pay my bills and do. I was talking to one of the guys—my computer, something happened to my computer, so I called Ohio and one of the guys said, "Oh, you're the people down in that storm area." He says, "I heard it covered on the news that they let the water off and they had to do it, they would do it again. They let the water on y'all." I said, "You say what?" Now he doesn't know anything about North Carolina except what he heard on the news. And my niece lives in Maryland, and she said the same thing. It was like shown one time, and it wasn't anymore. So I'm saying, I can understand keep from having a flash flood. I can understand that. But then if the government, the state government, did that, they should make everybody whole. But I worked for the government long enough to know they can't admit any guilt. If they do, then they've got to pay to the people that are dead—fifty people died throughout this thing—and they've got to do everything to make everybody whole. They should if they did that, whether you've

Page 10
got insurance or not. If you did this to me, you should make me whole again without any strings attached. If you did that to save hundreds of thousands of lives, then I could understand sacrificing a few. We'll be the sacrificial lambs but then just make us whole. Don't make me whole, then make my children whole. But I wish this could only—of all the homes in White Stocking, at least if my house had been the only one lost, my neighbors could've helped me. See, we're so devastated that we can't help each other. I've never been in this situation in my life that I couldn't help my neighbor. And that's hard. It's hard for me to deal with. I've always been working. I'm a person that's always believed in giving. It's hard for me to receive. But I've got to be like a—I'm not a beggar, but it's like, people got to help you. There's no other way to get it. You've got to get help. That's a bad—I'm not proud. I don't have that pride spirit, but I'm a working person. I'm not used to people giving me. I'm the one always to give. It's hard to stand in line and wait for somebody to tell you, "You can have this, and you can't have this, and you can't have that." And you've worked all your life, and you've always been the one to give. But I can say this here Red Cross and the Salvation Army are the two that—I'm not going to wait until I get on my feet because I'm on my feet—to help. Those'll be the ones I'm helping. Those are the things that I'll donate too. I'm not talking change either. I'm talking about donating green money because they really helped. They've been a help to the community.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How have they helped?
BERT PICKETT:
They came down here—food, clothes when you really needed it. When you couldn't get out, didn't have transportation. See one time, we didn't have any transportation. They would come in and turn out your house. Everybody looks at you

Page 11
now because you're driving new trucks and new cars. Well, you had stuff. If I don't have transportation, then I can't work and take care of my family. Some people, I think, they get kind of resentful and don't want to do anything to help you out. But I had transportation before I got the storm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, yeah. You had four or five vehicles lost.
BERT PICKETT:
In the family, because my wife's aunt came down to live with us. There were five cars lost in one family. I lost three of my own. My daughter lost one. And my wife's first cousin lost a car. So that's five in one family—she was in because they lived in a doublewide. We should've all moved out there because nothing happened out there. When the water came and got high, she was sick and we had to take care of her and take her out. When I saw the water rise over my Pontiac, a little Grand Prix, the tire, I saw the water go from under the tire to over the top, I said, "It's time for me to go." It's about an inch on that porch—come in on that porch. I said, "It's time for me to go."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that was on Thursday?
BERT PICKETT:
On Friday.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. Wednesday the hurricane came—
BERT PICKETT:
Wednesday night. Wednesday evening, Wednesday night.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And there were winds but nothing big.
BERT PICKETT:
I got a call from my cousin in Maple Hill says—he knew where I lived. He said, "Man, I got water in my den a foot deep." I didn't have nothing, man. I'm doing all right. Right then—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That was on Friday.
BERT PICKETT:
That was on Thursday.

Page 12
CHARLES THOMPSON:
On the 16th, and then on the 17th—.
BERT PICKETT:
That was when it all hit the fan.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You started—okay. When you said, "I got to get out of here", how did you do it? Did you get in a boat?
BERT PICKETT:
In a boat, I got my family out on a boat. I left last. That man over there—that lady Murray and Wilson—we were going to stay right around because we didn't want people coming in the neighborhood and—. We didn't think the water would—nobody thought the water would get that high. So we were going to fight it out like some of the other men. It got a little bit high said, "It's time to go." So we all got—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you already have a boat?
BERT PICKETT:
We had a boat. We went out on a boat with friends and neighbors that came and took us out. Matter of fact, a white gentleman took my wife and aunt and I think—. Something like that—I went on his boat.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you remember what his name was?
BERT PICKETT:
Huh uh.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He just came, somebody you didn't even know.
BERT PICKETT:
Well, we know each other. Well, we live down here. You see each other. But you don't know—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So he's from the community?
BERT PICKETT:
From the community. Yeah. And he was taking people. He didn't know where his wife—they were out, but he didn't know where they were. He was one of the folk that I said—evidently he had lost before. Not through a flood but he said—it's hard to come back once or twice. He said, "This was my second time." He was ready to give up.

Page 13
You could tell how he felt. I told him, "Man, you've got to keep on. You can't give up. If you give up, you're defeated." Where you're defeated first—I believe this here—is right here. If you're defeated in your mind first, then you're already lost. If your mind isn't defeated then you can't be defeated. That's what happened to Muhammad Ali. He wasn't as strong a fighter as Foreman. Well, he put mind power over the guys, his opponent, and knocked them off the air. This flood of the century, probably five hundred years, I hope, I won't be around if it happens again. I don't want to live that long. And I feel like probably it'll be a long, long time. I'm fifty-one, so, I don't want to see another one of these. Just stand in your yard and drowned, man. Nobody could believe this. No one had any dream in the water—you figured, high water, a foot deep. That's high water. But feets of water. The guys told me they had a depth finder on a boat that came through here, and some places were fifteen feet, and some places were nineteen feet. One of the guys said he could've stood in his boat and touched the light line. You see how high the light lines are.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Man.
BERT PICKETT:
Some places it was lower.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
They're thirty feet.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Some places it was lower. He said I could've stood in my boat, man, and grabbed the light line. It's unbelievable—you could—it's just unbelievable. You can look at the water lines on the trees and tell how high it was. It would take a nine-foot man. A nine-foot man in every yard could've been real safe. He wouldn't have to worry about drowning. Other than that, a man six feet or seven feet, he's through. If he'd have hit a hole then he's drowned. That's bad, man.

Page 14
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So where did you go? Where did the community go?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, some went to Camp Kirkwood. The Presbyterian Church has a campsite across One seventeen about five miles from here. Most of the community went there. I went—some went to their family outside of this community. I went to my wife's aunt. We all moved in there—a doublewide. I stayed there for about three weeks, I believe, something like that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And how long did the people stay at this camp?
BERT PICKETT:
About a month, a little bit longer. Probably until we got our trailers back in.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you were staying at your wife's aunt's house, and you came back into the community. How long did it take before you were able to come back here?
BERT PICKETT:
About a month.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Before you could even see your house?
BERT PICKETT:
No. I came back about eleven days after, I think, because I didn't come back on the boat. I didn't—I saw enough because I knew what it was like. Some people took their boats and came back in that Sunday. I came down—I didn't want to come back here. I came back in when the water was down but your yard was still wet. I came back in about twelve days. The water is in about ten; about twelve days, I came in.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The water was in your house for ten days?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Eight to ten days, we know that much.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You were talking in the house, when you were in there, about the water being angry.
BERT PICKETT:
Yes. This water had a force behind it. The first brick house as you come here, before that dumpster. You go look at the corner of the house, and you can see

Page 15
where the bricks are broken loose. I mean, the water had that much force. You could see where it broke the bricks loose from this house. And some of mine are cracked. The middle of the brick cracked on some of mine. His was much more damage than my house was. So the water had that angry force. Like it would turn your furniture around. It was just devastating. It would come inside your bedroom, your private. There's nobody in your bedroom but the water did. It went in there like a thief and turned over everything. Turned your bed sideways. It's just devastating. To look at that, that's when it breaks you up.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So what did—did you have to take all that out all by yourself?
BERT PICKETT:
No. We had a group, like I was talking about—the church group came from Wilmington: people that were pharmacists, workers at Corning, workers at different walks of life. They came by; and they had prayer; and after about six hours, my house was like it is now. They just did a tremendous job. And I really, I was devastated. I'm still devastated to tell you the truth. But then—I was looking at it then wondering, "How am I going to get all this stuff out of my house?" because it would take me a month to do what they did in about six or seven hours. They came and they worked hard—seven men and one woman, I think, one lady. And they were all white. I can say they came to our rescue. That's what's so good about—if any good thing came out of this, it pulled people together. Where there was a lot of division and people feeling like they shouldn't feel— because you know what, I'm an American first. I'm black by birth, but I'm an American. I had no choice as to what color I would be. That isn't my choice. I just happened to be a black American. I did for my country. Well, I almost gave my life. I've got a limp in my walk. I've got a half-bum leg, so I did what I'm supposed to do for my country. So I'm

Page 16
an American. I am American first. I am American. I'm a red-blooded American. I love my country. I've been halfway around the world; this is the best country in the world. Best in the world. There you go. They're going to give you somewhere to stay. Most places they give you—now a lot of people don't look at it like this here. Most places—Turkey they give you what. Nothing. You have nothing. You've got to live in—people having different floods and things, their government doesn't give them anything. Our government goes over and helps them. Most of the time they don't have anything. Tents, maybe, but maybe they're from America. You've got a lot of problems in this country, but it's is the best country I know. I want that on tape. [laughs]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's on there.
BERT PICKETT:
It is. America has its problems, but it's the best country in the world, and it still is. It's number one.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you appreciate this FEMA trailer.
BERT PICKETT:
It's better than living in somebody else's house. It's not big enough, but it's pretty decent.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How long has it sat here?
BERT PICKETT:
This is what, this is December, October—little over a month. Going on two months. I'm the first person in the county that got a trailer. I had the commissioner, highway commissioner, Moore. Is his name Moore?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
BERT PICKETT:
He was here. I mean, we shook hands and talked—said some private things, too, about bringing some money here. He's over this. I was the first person in Pender

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County to get a travel trailer. It's better than staying in somebody else's houses and that's good.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And it is right beside your house.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Where you can get all your—see what's being done.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How long will you be able to stay in this trailer?
BERT PICKETT:
They gave us eighteen months.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you think that's enough time?
BERT PICKETT:
For some it won't be. I think they'll extend it. I think they'll work with the people. I mean, North Carolina hasn't ever seen anything like this. This part of the East Coast has never seen this much devastation.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You remember Hazel and you remember other—.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Hazel, Donna—this is like South Carolina was a couple of years ago. We're in that same boat now. Two things good. But what we need now are funds to help us get back. If I had any inkling—if I was told by my people that you bought your house from that you've got to have flood insurance, I'd have had my flood insurance. The problem is now that with the flood insurance, the people still aren't getting compensated enough. The insurance doesn't cover their damage. They sell you flood insurance, but they don't sell you contents insurance. Well, every person's house has things in it. They've got at least $35,000 worth of contents. At least that over twenty-five years. That's the least you could start at. You've got cameras in there. You've got computers in there. Things like that that you've just lost. You add up everything; you add up things that you've lost; you figure, "Dog, $35,000." You can get $35,000 so quick it'd make your head swim. You say, "Good gracious". We just stopped counting and figured kitchen set,

Page 18
bedroom set, ( ) suit. I didn't have—no offense to Heilig-Meyers. But I had Kincaid in my house. It was pretty decent furniture. But we'll get that back. The house is more important right now. And you know one thing that I'm thankful for—I was afraid down here, that somebody down here was going to lose their life, and lost their life. That's what I was afraid of, that they were going to find somebody in these houses dead. But they didn't. And that's—I'm very thankful for that. We were afraid that somebody was going to be in a house drowned, had a heart attack, or something like that. But nobody was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Fifty-one people, I think, died.
BERT PICKETT:
But nobody down here. And it was about two hundred families down here, and nobody lost a life. That's a miracle to me because you've got some people that wouldn't leave 'til dark; some people left at dark. I am not that brave. You need to get out of here before dark. Some people stayed until night and had to go out by moonlight. That isn't good. That isn't good. That's not good because they were staying for the last minute. Nothing's going to happen.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What have you gotten from the government? What have you heard? You got a FEMA trailer, and the Salvation Army has come. But any money from FEMA?
BERT PICKETT:
FEMA will give you a little check.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Can you tell us how much?
BERT PICKETT:
Probably close to $10,000.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you had already talked about the $35,000 just for contents. That's not for rebuilding your house.
BERT PICKETT:
[laughs]

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CHARLES THOMPSON:
Just estimate how much it would cost just to put your house back.
BERT PICKETT:
Well, the carpenter that built the house—$68,000. That's his figure he gave me, and he lived down here. He probably—$68,000 to put it back like it was. He's saying possibly.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What are you going to use the $10,000?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, I'm hoping somebody'll give us some free sheet rock, and some insulation, and maybe some free labor. And I can take and stretch that ten and use it. I'm supposed to be able to get some more money from this—the government just passed another, what thirty-eight million—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
For housing, right.
BERT PICKETT:
Eight hundred and thirty million. Housing and farmers. Don't forget the farmers, they're going to get theirs. But the farmers are going to get a bigger cut than the housing people. That's why we went to Raleigh. I'm not saying don't give it to the farmers. They need theirs. You've got to have farms, but don't forget us.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well talk about—you're the first person we talked to who went to Raleigh this week on Wednesday. And the legislature was just voting on Governor Hunt's proposal where he decided he wasn't going to raise taxes but was going to take money from various programs, social services and Smart Start and others. A lot of people were up there protesting that they didn't want money taken away from their programs that they've worked on very hard every day, I'm sure. Is that why you were there?
BERT PICKETT:
No. We were there just to show solidarity to our representative, that we were going to get some money turned lose. We weren't there to try to rain on anybody else's

Page 20
parade. We just want some money. What you have to do is cut back on—my church runs a day care. And we work about five people, off and on. And it helped them.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What helped them?
BERT PICKETT:
The daycare helped them, the people that worked there. We're trying to get state funding. It isn't that much, but I guess some of those people were going to lose—if they had to cut back on the kids. We could only have eighteen kids right now, trying to expand.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you were saying to them, don't cut back on the money that's coming for daycare, through Smart Start, Head Start, some of that money.
BERT PICKETT:
You don't need to take that—you don't need to do that. If you're going to have to raise taxes, raise taxes. We know you're going to have to raise taxes. I mean, that's a given. We know that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Governor Hunt's saying he's not going to raise taxes.
BERT PICKETT:
That's a lie. I like Hunt, good man. I voted for him. He's got to raise taxes. Anybody—he probably won't raise taxes, but the next man that gets in there is going to have to raise taxes. That's got to be. Somebody's got to raise taxes. You've got to put back in what's taken out. So somebody's got to raise taxes. He probably won't do it; he probably won't. He's got another year in there—or two years—so he won't. But somebody else will have to raise taxes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So how did y'all organize to go to Raleigh? How did you get word to go up there at that—?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, I got it—it was announced in church, their church, the other Sunday. I wasn't there.

Page 21
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You mean the church here in the community?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. The people that belong to that Methodist church. They were talking to the representative and got in contact with him. And they came and they asked me. I said, "Well, I'll just get our church van from Wallace." We put about seven or eight people on my van. Some people drove in their cars. I think we had three cars. Some people came from Wilmington. We drove the van. We got there. Matter of fact, when I came in from work, I took a shower, ate two doughnuts and a chicken drumstick, and drank some orange juice. I didn't go to bed. So I was up like—and drove to Raleigh. But I didn't drive back. Well, I hadn't had any sleep since the day before, just to get there. But I was saying our community leaders, our county commissioners, they fail us. I don't think they did their job right. That's the whole thing in this whole situation for us. Nobody knew. They heard about Tarboro, Princeville. Nobody heard about us. I called Channel 3 News and asked them if they'd heard about White Stocking. I said, "We've drowned. We're devastated." "Well, we can't get down there." I thought they had helicopters. The news people couldn't get here until the water got down like it is now. But I want everybody to know about—you talk about the beach. Everybody heard about the beach. If you build on the beach, you're looking for it to happen. It's going to happen. We didn't look for this to happen down here. This was like an ocean down here. So I said when I got this travel trailer, "Well, one thing about me, I won't be going to the beach. I'll be going to the mountains." [laughs] I've had enough water in this lifetime.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I'm glad you brought up that you were trying to get in touch with the media, and they were not coming. What's the message that they missed? What can we say now as a part of history?

Page 22
BERT PICKETT:
The message is the whole area, this whole Pender County area, was devastated, and nobody knew about it. Nobody was concerned. And our commissioners, some of them didn't even know about it because we're isolated. This is off of Fifty-three. I'm two and a half miles from Fifty-three. Unless you come down here, you don't know what's happening down here.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And it is a dead-end road so you don't just pass here.
BERT PICKETT:
Right. You can go around and make a circle and come right back out to Fifty-three, but it's off the beaten path. So you have to know the area to be concerned about it. Our commissioners just failed us. They really did. I think that's a slight oversight not knowing how to—nobody was prepared for this; that's what it was. Nobody was prepared for this amount of water. Wind, yes. But not this.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So what could the commissioners have done to help more?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, I think communicating to the higher uppers in Raleigh. Saying, "We need some help down in here now." I think our sheriff department asked for a chopper. He still—he didn't get one until one of his buddies gave him one of theirs. Everything was just so slow, moving down here. Everybody's mind was on Tarboro and Princeville and every other place. But right here, this was like a little community nobody knew about. On Forty-one they had a lot of devastation like we did. And the folk were saying, "We lost everything." But we lost everything. The same shape. If you got four feet of water in your house or six feet of water in your house, you've lost everything in your house. What wasn't in the attic, you lost it all. That's what's so bad about this thing.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How did you find out about getting FEMA help first? If the county commissioners didn't help you, how did they know you were here?

Page 23
BERT PICKETT:
Finally, after what—FEMA got in contact—I guess the government didn't— everything happens in your county. The commissioners have to invite them. The President doesn't come down here unless the commissioners invite him in. Nobody can run your county but your commissioners. They're your fathers. And they were just slow. They invited everybody in like they were supposed to be in—your FEMA and everybody. But it was just too slow. And sometimes, FEMA moves too slow. They do well, but you've got people; you've got humans—you're dealing with human beings. And you've got some people that are Johnny on the Spot. And you've got some that are slow. That's just the way it is. That's life. And you've got to learn to deal with it. But the Red Cross— I'll say again, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army just stepped up to the plate. And they were taken advantage of by a lot of people too. People that didn't deserve anything.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How did they do that?
BERT PICKETT:
Well people come in—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
They'd setup somewhere, in Burgaw.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. And people would come in that hadn't had that much happen to them. Like, I have seen people that I know hadn't lost, getting a hand out. Where there could be more for people in my situation—not necessarily me. I've seen folk that I know shouldn't have been there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I've heard that story here in the county before. What makes people do that?
BERT PICKETT:
Greed. Greed. Some people don't have that much; and when it comes time for them to get, if they're giving it out, it's like, "Free lunch." Everybody wants a free lunch. Well, somebody's got to pay.

Page 24
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So some people didn't, like the elderly people in this community, didn't get anything—?
BERT PICKETT:
Well they got—how much can an old person get, you know what I'm saying? Everybody knew, you help the old people out. You help the elderly out all you could. But when you're going out to take care of business, some people just found out that FEMA would help them, what little bit they do. I mean—I was talking to my wife's close friend, now FEMA has been here over a month—the storm came in October, September—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
September.
BERT PICKETT:
FEMA been here since last September, first of October, and you've still have people who really haven't found out FEMA yet and gotten in contact with them. This old lady—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Even today?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, two weeks ago, a week and a half a go—should've been taken care of. They don't know what to do. If you know what to do, then you've got to help those people out instead of taking advantage of them. I was told that this old lady, somebody had used her name, and somehow they got her number, FEMA number. And they already went through and got what little help she was going to get. They got it—maybe a little food or something. Just people taking advantage of people. That's bad.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you have the people who are helping; you have the people coming down here from Salvation Army; you have churches; even white people you have never seen before coming in helping; then you have the people who are greedy—
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. You've got the greedy people.

Page 25
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You have the people who are taking advantage and using other people's names. Some good and some bad.
BERT PICKETT:
The good outweighs the bad.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It does?
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. The good outweighs the bad, but you always going to find the people that use the system. You're going to find that. That's the way human beings are. You've got—our weakness I guess, greed. Greed, that's a bad thing. I don't want—if I can just be made whole, that's all I want because I've been working since I was thirteen buying my own clothes and everything.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you're talking about pitching in and doing as much as you can.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You are a pastor of a church. Have you preached on this topic of the flood?
BERT PICKETT:
Yes, a little bit.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What do you believe about natural disasters, acts of God, and so forth?
BERT PICKETT:
I don't think this is an act of God. We've got two forces in the world. If you believe in God then you've got to believe in Satan, the Devil, which is a fallen angel. So then God doesn't have to take my house and take my possessions to make me serve him. I serve Him because I want to. I love God because He's God and good. I'm not afraid to serve God. If I don't want to serve Him, if I didn't want to be a Christian, I wouldn't be one. I think we look at the bad things sometimes and say God's doing it. I don't think so. I think you've got two forces. We've got the—remember, there's two forces. There's good and evil. I see it like this here. God's in the breeze. If Satan gets in it, he turns it into a whirlwind, a tornado. You see, it's just wind and the devil gets into it. If you look in the

Page 26
Bible, in Job. I am not going to preach, but I think I mentioned this last Sunday. Job was a good man; had a big family; had a lot. Job was the richest man in that time—the richest man in the world, in the East anyway. He was a good person, and he lost everything he had. Not because of what he'd done. If you read the scriptures and if the Bible is right— I'll say it like that—not trying to—Job got in trouble because God liked Job. In a sense, God was bragging on him and Satan came and—the sons of God met with God. And you probably know about as much as I do. And Satan, he presented himself also. And the Scripture said, "From whence comest thou,". He said, "From to and fro," Saying, "Who he made ye thou." God allowed Job to be tested, to get sick, to lose his family, lose everything. God allowed that to happen. God, He doesn't do everything, but He allowed it to happen. And I said—
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A

[TAPE1, SIDE B]


Page 27
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
BERT PICKETT:
In a sense, because you see so much evil, see so much hate. Even in the church folk, you find so much wrongness. So you think, "Something's wrong with this picture." You're about to lose faith in humanity. That's bad for a preacher, to lose faith in humanity, because you can't do that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Before the hurricane you were starting to feel that?
BERT PICKETT:
Feel like, people don't want to do right. People were taking advantage of church folk. And different things happen. You've been reading the paper. You know what's going on. And you see a lot of wrong things done. But you find out when you deal with people that you've good people in this world, people that can't even clean their house out. Good people, just ordinary people, pharmacists, workers in the communities— I didn't see a doctor or lawyer—but I've seen common people that are helping out. I have a ladder right now from a gentleman. He left his aluminum ladder. I have it inside my house. When he comes back, it'll be here for him. I can't let anybody use it. It's got to stay in my possession. He was good enough to come and help me tear my house out. Matter of fact, told me I could leave if I wanted to, but I couldn't leave him there because I'm a doer. I couldn't leave everybody doing things for me. I've got to do something for myself. They forgot and left their ladder here. It's been here since last September, I think.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Any other stories that you've heard about people helping each other?
BERT PICKETT:
There's been helping all over the community. Like I said, the sad part about it is the community can hardly help itself because everybody is so devastated. Just like the other night, you've seen the Browns. They had two of these.

Page 28
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, tell that story.
BERT PICKETT:
I hardly know about it, but all I know they had two—she had just bought some Christmas. She had just bought—she went to Raleigh with me the other day. We went to Raleigh together. And came back home that night, and their trailer got burned down—their FEMA trailer.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And she had her Christmas presents in there—.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. She had just bought Christmas stuff, and from what I can understand, they probably had money in their pocketbook that got burned up. So she got—Now that's rough.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That happened on Thursday night or Wednesday night?
BERT PICKETT:
Just got their trailer today, got it yesterday. Must've happened Thursday night—Wednesday night. Must've happened Wednesday night.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The 16th.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. Must've happened about the 16th.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
One trailer caught fire, and the other one beside it was burned, but no one was hurt. What little bit they had saved out of their house must've been in there.
BERT PICKETT:
It was. It was. They'd just bought some stuff. She rode with her brother I think to Raleigh. She just had unloaded some gifts, I think, from what she had just bought and she went right back. They had to call the Salvation Army, I think, and somebody to help them again. And I know she doesn't like that because I know they're working people and things happen. And she's so—I saw her face—and she's so devastated. You could see she'd been crying and weeping. It's just sad. Flood, then the fire. And all you've got is gone twice. Now that's devastating. But we'll come back. It's a good little

Page 29
community, it really is. You don't hear of too much happening down here. Very rarely do you hear of anything. It's quiet. Good community. You've got the retired people that live here, the working people, good morals. You've got good values. And I don't think God did this. I don't think so.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What is God doing now? I mean, how do you see it? What does God take this disaster and make out of it?
BERT PICKETT:
I think He's pulling people together. Okay, you're in a place you've never been before. And I think He's calling people to meet other folk—allowed to just meet. By talking to—it helps. It's therapy for me to talk about it sometimes. Some people are hush-mouthed. I've got an eighteen year-old ( ). It's been devastating to him. He doesn't say much. He was a good kid too. I thank God, I've got an eighteen year-old boy, and I know where he is all the time. That's good. He doesn't cause any trouble. But this has been devastating to a kid. You can understand that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I don't know if everybody does, so explain how it is devastating to a kid.
BERT PICKETT:
Because this is all they've ever seen, daddy was able to do for them. They had somewhere pretty decent to live. Then all of a sudden you don't have anything. You've got to depend on somebody else for shelter, almost for food. You know, daddy's been doing this. But daddy can hardly do it now. You can see his frame. He tries to be— he's growing into manhood, and he's trying to learn from his dad, but he sees the weakness in his dad. He sees his daddy at his weakest point also. In a sense, that's probably good because men aren't supposed to cry. Men are supposed to be strong. But sometimes men need to let our feelings be shown. I'm not invincible. I'm human and I have feelings. I hurt. A lot of men won't admit that they hurt. Man, I hurt. And we all

Page 30
did our share of crying. Just might not do it in front of somebody else, but we go to our little places. When this first happened, I couldn't sleep. I lost twelve pounds in a couple of weeks, about two weeks. I didn't know I was losing it; I would just forget to eat. I started back on my eating regiment. I forgot during the weekdays. I was so busy trying to get things. You'd get up and if you don't eat breakfast; you're gone; and you'd get back. You'd be down here looking at plumbing, and the day is gone—it's four o'clock and you haven't eaten anything. You'd burned up what little energy you had. I had lost twelve pounds in about two weeks just like that. I hadn't realized it until I got on the scales. Everybody talking about, "You lost weight. Your eyes look funny. You're sick." You don't realize that. A lot of people have been through this. The people that have been in the flood, the real people that have lost and suffered, you can see it. You see them. You know them because you know what they were before they were like this. And we're laughing and we're smiling, but man, we're hurting also. We're driving vehicles that you had to go right back in debt to get. Some of them you had to pay for them, but you had to go right back in debt, but you're hurting. People see you. You're driving a new car, but you're hurting. I'm driving a new car, but I'm hurting. A lot of people don't see that. They see you driving a new vehicle, another vehicle, and they think everything's all right.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
There goes a contractor?
BERT PICKETT:
Well, he does cement fencing. He was down here too. He lives next to the dump, the white trailer. He lost his house. He was renting. So he got him a mobile home. He got a nice one from what I can understand. I would like to have a mobile

Page 31
home; that would be better than this. But we're going to get back in there soon. We're going to get back in our house. It's going to be all good after a while.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What is your plan? How are you going to start? Today, what are you going to do?
BERT PICKETT:
Today, if you hadn't come by here, I was going to take my saw. But I'm going to do something else. I'm going to take that—some more of that wood out a room at a time. If I can do it that way, I'll do it one room at the time and get it back like I want to. But if the government had told us that money they're talking about—.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The state.
BERT PICKETT:
Yeah. The state. If they'll give us a statute amount of money for each family then we can get back. And even though the contractor says he can do it for one thing, with your friends you can do it cheaper. It won't cost me sixty-eight to get back in; I might get back in for thirty-five. We'll do it. If I can find out where this free material is, that's what's going to help us.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you think there'll be these people that were taking free food in there trying to get free materials?
BERT PICKETT:
It isn't going to be that easy though because this time when the money come by—how the county commissioners are supposed to operate it, we'll have administrative staff there; they're supposed to be different people from all walks of life, like in the community that know the community. And you can say, "Hey that person shouldn't have that because he's not one of the flood survivors. He shouldn't have that.'
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's a good plan. Have they already talked about doing that or is that your idea?

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BERT PICKETT:
No. That's supposed to be in place really. It's hard when you've got that many people, it's hard to police everybody. So what you do now, you put them in a number; you do what you have to do. That's what FEMA and everybody, you do what you have to do. I think some of them will remember. FEMA is doing their job, but the Red Cross got taken advantage of, and the Salvation Army they got taken advantage of. I know that for a fact. The people shouldn't have been there, but they're there. That's wrong.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you see them there?
BERT PICKETT:
I've seen some folks that shouldn't have been there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did people just remain quiet or do you tell them something when you see them—?
BERT PICKETT:
One lady said she told them, "You'll get it back." And you're kind of wondering what are you doing here. You're trying to figure out, first of all, you're trying to say, "Are you here for somebody else?" Yeah. I can see that. Helping an old person or something. But you find out that person's there for themselves because they're greedy because they won't go to work. You just want to beat somebody. That's what wrong. And you find out—this is a bad part of how the system worked, that's the bad part of our country, our government. They'll take care of somebody, got four or five illegitimate kids. But you've worked hard all your life. You've paid in the system all your life. And it comes time to help you, you've got to go through a whole lot of red tape. That's wrong. Something's wrong with that picture.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What kind of red tape do you have to go through?

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BERT PICKETT:
Well, they tell you the county has this much money for you out of this kind of fund. And you go out and they say, "You make too much money." "But I lost everything." And if you make—listen to this here—if you make, family of three gross $100,00 a year. How much of that money do you really bring home? You don't bring home $100,000 a year. You might bring home $65,000. You might bring home that much. So if I made that much money, it'd take my whole salary for a year and more—it'd take two years of my salary to get back like you were. So you're still not ahead of the game. You're behind the eight ball any way you look at it. You're still catching up. That's why it's going to be so hard for some of us, catching up, trying to catch up.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You have expenses now. You have bills to pay.
BERT PICKETT:
Still have a house note, and you can't live in your house. Still have a house note. That's why most folks are looking at—FEMA says, "Well, we're giving you $70,000." "Whoopee, but I still got a house note to pay off.'
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That'd mean you have two.
BERT PICKETT:
Two house notes. That isn't good. Who needs to pay that? That isn't good. That's the reason I'm saying if the water were turned loose on us, the state ought to fix us back if that was done that way. I don't know. I can't prove it. I've heard it, but I can't prove it. And nobody else—isn't anyone else going to ( ). It was put on the news a couple of times, and it was shut off. I'm about through talking. Thank you.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Thank you very much. We wish you well. And our prayers are with you.
[END OF INTERVIEW]