No Going Home

On Sept. 16, Hurricane Floyd blew into North Carolina, dumping 20 inches of rain in just 10 hours. Rivers rose 19 feet above normal, pouring over their banks and swallowing entire towns. Among the victims were 17-year-old Cayla Sutton and her family, who lost their home and everything in it.

Correspondent Peter Van Sant reports on the struggles of Cayla and of her best friend, Brandy Jones.


"We went outside, and we were, like, 'Oh gosh'" said Cayla, who lives in Kinston. "It was like rapids in our back yard. We knew we were going to have to evacuate."

"Everywhere you looked there was water," said Jan Sutton, Cayla's mother, who sells agricultural products.

"It's a sinking feeling," said Cayla's father Timothy, who works in construction. "You know things will never be back to the way they were."

When Cayla returned home for the first time, she came in a boat. Seeing her ruined house was a shock, as she had lived there all her life.

On the other side of town, Cayla's friend Brandy, was also hit by the flood though she and her parents had a little more time to prepare than Cayla's family did.

They got their belongings out before the water came in. But the water also wreaked havoc there - enough for the Jones' house to be condemned.

"Everything that my parents have worked for is gone," Brandy said.

For now, she and her parents, Donna and Joe Jones, lived with relatives in a trailer.

"It's like somebody chops you off at the knees," said Donna Jones, a secretary for a construction company.

"It just leaves you numb," said Joe Jones, a machinist.

Both Brandy and Cayla are trying to cope with the flood's emotional cost.

"I've learned that my family's more important to me than anything else," said Cayla, getting choked up, "and that life isn't perfect."

Cayla and Brandy have also leaned on each other: They call each other "flood buddies."

Two weeks after the flood South Lenore High School reopened. Besides seniors Cayla and Brandy, 85 other students and their families were forced from their homes in the wake of the hurricane.

South Lenore's principal, Tom Salter, worries about the flood's lingering effects, saying that some of his students have been through a kind of war.

A month after Floyd, the flood waters finally receded and Cayla and her parents confronted the grim task of harvesting what they could from their ruined house. There wasn't much to save.

Jan Sutton found her father's dog tags and was especially excited when she came across Cayla's baby shoes.

This chore was especially difficult for Cayla.
But she said the experience will help her in the long run: "I'm a stronger person now. I've lived through it. So if I can do that and start over, I can do anything."

Brandy and her parents are looking for a new place to live, on higher ground.

The Suttons are living in a rened house. They hope to have their house rebuilt by Christmas.

"The greatest Christmas present would be my house," Cayla said. "To live in my house, to be with my family on Christmas eve."

Earlier this month, Brandy competed in the Lenore County Junior Miss competition. Cayla was there to root for her friend. When Brandy won, she was ecstatic. As her friends shouted her name, Brandy enjoyed the moment, a respite from the stress of putting her life back together.

Said Cayla: "Considering everything, you know we're still strong. We're still alive; we're still pushing, going, continuing with our lives. We made it."

Too Much Too Soon: Main Page

Web site produced by David Kohn;