When I went to work at the University of North Carolina, I — of course — missed my family, all of whom were still in Ohio.
I decided that to get my family fix I would find somewhere in North Carolina that they would find appealing enough to want to come visit for a week or so. Since we are land-locked Ohio natives it was not difficult to figure out that a beach vacation would be attractive to all. So I began to ask my colleagues questions about where to look for a good vacation site. Many of them said, go to the outer banks. So we did and have been going back every year since, this being our 18th year.
This year we stayed in Avon, which is about halfway down Hatteras so it is centrally located.
Almost all of my immediate family, kids, grandkids, great grandkids, trekked down to the island. Had a great time. Until early Friday morning. Friday would have been our last full day. We were awakened at about 12:30 a.m. by neighbors pounding on our door. Our front yard was on fire behind the basketball hoop. The Avon Fire Department showed up quickly and put out the fires, there was also one across the street in an area that was only vegetation.
I spoke at length with the firemen particularly their leader. My question was, “Why would someone set a fire in my front yard?” The response from one of the firemen was that they believed some idiot was driving around throwing fireworks out of the truck and it caught the brush on fire. He said he believed there were several fires started, however, the fire department had evidently not been called for those and he could not tell me where.
When I got to the head honcho I asked him point blank if it was possible that my multi-racial family had been targeted since we were the only ones with people of color in residence in the neighborhood and the only house in that area with a fire. He first said he did not think so until I pointed out to him that there was no way that someone driving by could have thrown a firecracker far enough and accurately enough to start the fire where it began. They would have had to pull into the driveway and, considering the location of the fire, get out of the vehicle.
He then admitted he was a bit worried that we might have been targeted and told us to please watch and call the sheriff if we heard or saw anything else. We thanked him and agreed to do just that. I did contact the sheriff the next day, received a very nice, prompt response, and he has assigned an investigator to make sure it was just a coincidence that our house was vandalized.
I am not paranoid. My first reaction to the fire was that it was someone with a juvenile and irresponsible take on life. However, after talking to the firemen and looking at the situation more carefully, it is possible that we were the victims of an attempted hate crime. I do not think the person or persons who set the fire wanted to burn down the house. If they had they would have set the fire under the house. I believe they just wanted to be hateful.
It will not stop us from going to the OBX, we have never had any racial issues before and I am not going to believe without question that we had one this year.
But, it make you think about the America we now live in.
Cookie Newsom is a Greene County resident and columnist.